1.4 million Americans live with Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed between the age 15-30. Additionally, 5-20% of individuals with Crohn’s have a family history of the disease.
Though the cause is unknown, we know the symptoms are caused by a hyperactive immune system attacking the gut. Crohn’s may involve any part of the GI tract, but usually the distal small bowel (ileum) and the colon.
Symptoms vary depending on the section of the gut involved, but usually include:
- Diarrhea (with possible constipation)
- Rectal bleeding if colon is involved
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
Complications include obstructions, fissures in the rectum, fistulas, cancer and perforation. Crohn’s may also involve areas outside the GI tract such as eyes, skin, kidney stones and joints. There is no current cure, but patients may go into remission with medication.
There are several different treatments including:
- 5 ASA (special aspirin)
- Immune modifiers (imuran, 6MP)
- Biologics (Remicaid, Humira)
Surgery is a last resort since many patients have recurrent disease despite surgery. Most drugs suppress the immune system with increased risk of infection and cancer.
We are studying 2 new types of treatment:
- Triple antibiotics designed to kill MAP bacteria that may be the cause of Crohn’s in some patients.
- New type of oral treatments that will normalize the immune system rather than suppress it.