Crohn's disease, also known as Crohn syndrome and regional enteritis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Signs and symptoms includes abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and tiredness. The skin rashes may be due to infections as well as pyoderma gangrenosum or erythema nodosum. Bowel obstruction also commonly occurs and those with the disease are at greater risk of bowel cancer.
Acute treatment uses medications to treat any infection (normally antibiotics) and to reduce inflammation (normally aminosalicylate anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids). When symptoms are in remission, treatment enters maintenance, with a goal of avoiding the recurrence of symptoms. Prolonged use of corticosteroids has significant side-effects; as a result, they are, in general, not used for long-term treatment. Alternatives include aminosalicylates alone, though only a minority are able to maintain the treatment, and many require immunosuppressive drugs. It has been also suggested that antibiotics change the enteric flora, and their continuous use may pose the risk of overgrowth with pathogens such as Clostridium difficile.
Major research on disease
Recent studies using helminthic therapy or hookworms to treat Crohn's Disease and other (non-viral) auto-immune diseases seem to yield promising results. Numerous preclinical studies demonstrate that activation of the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors exert biological functions on the gastrointestinal tract. Activation of CB1 and CB2 receptors in animals has shown a strong anti-inflammatory effect. Cannabinoids and/or modulation of the endocannabinoid system is a novel therapeutic means for the treatment of numerous GI disorders, including inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease. A few small trials have looked at medical cannabis but further evidence is required to determine its usefulness.
A registry of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD), was created at the University of Puerto Rico in 1995. Subjects with a documented diagnosis of IBD by clinical, radiologic, endoscopic, and/or pathologic criteria were recruited from the IBD clinics, support groups, and community practices, and demographic and medical data was collected. All entries from 1995 to 2009 were analyzed for demographics, family history, disease extent, extraintestinal manifestations, surgery, and smoking history. Results were described using summary statistics. 635 Hispanics living in Puerto Rico, 299 with UC and 336 with CD, were included. Mean ages were 40.3 for UC and 30.9 for CD. Over half (56%) of UC and 41% of CD were females. Family history was present in 19.3% of UC and 17.5% of CD. Surgery for IBD had been performed in 31.9% of UC and 51.2% of the CD patients. Over one-fourth of the patients reported extraintestinal manifestations, most frequently arthropathies. Our findings contribute to the limited epidemiologic and clinical data on Hispanics with IBD.