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Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness that differs from ulcerative colitis because it can affect any section of the digestive tract with inflammation occurring in all layers of the intestinal wall. It may affect discontinuous areas, i.e., the digestive tract contains alternating sections of healthy areas and inflamed segments.
As inflammation affects the entire intestinal wall, Crohn’s disease can course with complications such as stenosis (narrowing of the intestinal lumen) and/or fistulas (a connection between two intestinal loops or to an organ, e.g., the urinary bladder) which may be accompanied by collections of pus.
The most frequently affected areas are:
Ileum: predominantly the distal ileum
Colon: any segment
Ileum and colon: both
Upper digestive tract:from the mouth to the proximal ileum
Complications associated with Crohn’s disease
The main complications arising in conjunction with Crohn’s disease are:
Intestinal obstruction caused by intestinal lumen narrowing secondary to inflammation and/or the accumulation of fibrous scar tissue. The primary symptoms of this complication are abdominal pain (cramps) and general food intolerance (vomiting).
Fistulas are abnormal passageways connecting two internal parts of the body. A perianal fistula is a connection between the anal canal and the perianal skin around the end of the anus.
Síntomas más frecuentes de la Enfermedad de Crohn
Complications associated with diarrhoea
Dehydration: excessive loss of body water
Loss of nutrients, water and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.)
Oral rehydration therapy is essential. Administration of just water is not enough; patients must also receive the correct quantity of electrolytes (oral rehydration solution). In severe cases, fluids must be replaced intravenously.
Symptoms may vary depending on the disease’s location. When it affects the small intestine, patients primarily experience abdominal pain, diarrhoea, weight loss and/or loss of appetite. If the disease affects the colon, then the predominant symptom is diarrhoea with or without blood.
It is important to remember that Crohn’s disease can affect the anus and produce lesions such as:
Skin tags: folds of anal mucous membrane protruding outward
Fistulas: passageway from inside the rectum to outside the body (perianal skin)
Abscess: accumulation of pus due to infection
Fissure: small tear appearing as a linear wound in the anal canal
Rectal stenosis: narrowing of the anus or rectum because of scar tissue produced by ulcers
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Substantiated information by:
Ingrid Ordas JimenezGastroenterologistGastroenterology Department
Marta Gallego BarreroNurseGastroenterology Department
Published: 20 February 2018
Updated: 4 September 2020
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