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An introduction to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

According to Steven Bensen, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (often called colitis or UC for short) are on the rise across the board in the United States. These diseases are common among both men and women and have a strong genetic inheritance: nearly 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with Crohn's or colitis have a family member with the disease. There are approximately 1.5 million people with IBD in the United States alone, including 140,000 children, and that number has been steadily growing.

What are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis? These diseases are part of a category of illnesses known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Inflammatory bowel disease is the general name for diseases that cause swelling in the intestines. IBD stems from a confusion in the immune system of the body's intestine. When this confusion occurs, the intestinal lining attacks normally harmless bacteria and inflammation follows (hence the name "inflammatory bowel disease").

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, "Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease. Because the symptoms of Crohn's disease are similar to other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, it can be difficult to diagnose." Crohn's disease (named for a Dr. Crohn who was part of a study circa 1932) is an inflammation of the transmural wall of the intestines, usually of the small intestine, but inflammation may involve any part of the GI [gastrointestinal] tract.

Ulcerative colitis is characterized by mucosal ulceration in the colon, where it causes inflammation and ulcers in the top layer of the lining of the large intestine. In contrast, for those with Crohn's disease, all layers of the intestine may be involved, and normal healthy bowel can be found between sections of diseased bowel.

(Excerpted with permission from Living with Crohn's and Colitis: Jessica Black, N.D., and Dede Cummings. Copyright Hatherleigh Press.)

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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2010
Words:321
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