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.
Crohn's disease (CD) is rare in the Singapore population, but lately there seems to be an increasing trend of CD in the Singapore Chinese population. A retrospective study of all Chinese patients with CD seen from 1987 to 1993 at the Singapore General Hospital., all patients were regularly followed up and treated. Disease activity was defined by the Organisation Mondiale de Gastroenterologie index. There were 32 patients (20 men, 12 women) giving a hospital prevalence of 26.7 per 100,000 patients compared with 3.5 per 100,000 patients in 1986. The mean age was 37.1 years (range, 19-80 years). Twelve patients had small intestinal disease, 9 had colonic disease, and 11 had both. The common presenting symptoms were bloody diarrhea (67%), abdominal pain (53%), loss of weight (47%), and fever (34%). Extraintestinal manifestations were rare. Six patients had no relapse during the follow-up period, whereas the remaining 26 patients had an average of two relapses (range, 1-5). These relapses were complicated by fistulas in 8 patients and strictures in 11 patients.