What is Crohn’s?
Crohn’s disease is a long-term illness that causes inflammation in the gut. It can affect any part of the digestive system, from mouth to anus, but most often the ileum (part of the small intestine) and colon.
The disease typically follows a chronic course, meaning it continues for a long time, typically coming and going with recurrent relapses or flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of improvement.
Crohn’s Disease Symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhoea (which may be bloody)
- Weight loss
- Feeling generally unwell
- Skin rashes
- Rectal bleeding (note that this will never occur in those with lactose intolerance)
- Crohn’s disease may also affect other body tissues and systems causing symptoms in the eyes, joints, skin and liver
Individual’s who display any of the symptoms attributable to the above conditions should consult a doctor.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
The precise cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, but the condition is known to run in families and is three times more common in smokers.
Between one in 1000 and one in 1500 people have Crohn’s disease in the UK. Symptoms usually first appear between the ages of 15 and 40.
Crohn’s and Lactose Intolerance
Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease and as such it may cause gut-related symptoms, which may be mistaken for lactose intolerance. However, the symptoms of Crohn’s are more severe and will cause more systemic and widespread problems.
In addition, when Crohn’s disease involves the small intestine, there may be disruption of lactase production, causing lactose intolerance. This type of lactose intolerance may last only a few weeks, during a relapse, and be completely reversible. However, if extensive scarring of the small intestine develops, it may be permanent.