Crohn’s disease is associated with several uncomfortable symptoms.
Crohn’s disease can spread from the mouth to the anus. Chronic inflammatory bowel disease can affect the entire digestive tract. The inflammations can go through all layers of the intestinal wall and are often located in the transition between the small intestine and the large intestine. The illness doesn’t always affect the entire intestine – there can be healthy sections, too.
Doctors can only alleviate the incurable disease’s symptoms. But intense research is being done on Crohn’s disease, says Raja Atreya. The senior physician has been the Heisenberg Professor of Immunology for Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg since 2016.
“We are in the process of finding out how such an intestinal inflammation develops in order to better and better identify the molecules involved,” Atreya told DW. “More is happening in this area than ever before. We expect more and hopefully better drugs to come onto the market.”
Severe abdominal pain is a symptom of Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease occurs in flare-ups. “It is possible that patients have no symptoms between flare-up episodes and hardly any discomfort. But there are also patients who suffer from flare-ups permanently,” said Atreya. “That would be a very severe form.”
Because of the severe diarrhea patients have to struggle with, they have to go to the restroom frequently.
“We’ve all been through that,” Atreya said. “When we have diarrhea, we feel pretty miserable. Our social life suffers as well. You always have to make sure that there is a restroom somewhere nearby. Because when diarrhea comes along, you don’t have much time and you can’t hold it. You have to go right away. This can happen more than ten times a day in an acute episode.”
Crohn’s disease is a burden for the body and the psyche. Going to the movies or the theater and meeting friends can be more like torture than relaxing. Most people are between the ages of 15 and 35 when they are first diagnosed, but the disease increasingly manifests in older patients as well.
It is often very stressful and permanently affects the quality of life. Those affected often encounter incomprehension. Some friends, acquaintances and colleagues may not understand that Crohn’s disease is indeed something very serious and might make comments such as: “I’ve had diarrhea before. It’s not that bad and it’ll pass.”
Bad, worse, worst
Inflammations can narrow the intestinal mucosa. This leads to so-called stenoses.
“At some point, not even porridge or stool can pass through,” Atreya said. “That’s when we have to operate.”
Patients who have undergone several surgeries may have had their bowels shortened significantly over the years.
|Read on: Crohn′s disease – chronic pain and no cure | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 11.07.2018|