Crohn's disease is an autoimmune condition. This means that it is caused by the immune system inadvertently attacking the cells of the digestive system, leading to chronic inflammation that causes damage to the tissue in the digestive system. Crohn's disease can affect any portion of the digestive tract.
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Gastroduodenal Crohn's disease describes a form of Crohn's disease in which the stomach and the upper part of the small intestine (also known as the duodenum) is affected. As a 2003 article in the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings ("Gastroduodenal Crohn's Disease") states, this form of Crohn's only affects between 0.5 and 4 percent of all Crohn's patients, who have involvement of their stomach and duodenum.
Patients with gastroduodenal Crohn's disease often do not have any symptoms for a long period of time. When symptoms are noted, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, patients may experience weight loss, nausea and a loss of appetite. Sometimes patients experience vomiting, which is a sign that parts of the digestive system have become blocked.
Patients with Crohn's disease that affects the stomach and small intestine may develop bleeding, which can lead to anemia. Crohn's can also cause ulcers to form in the stomach or small intestine, which can lead to a misdiagnosis of peptic ulcer disease. As the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of American explains, sometimes these ulcers can cause tunnels between different portions of the intestines (called fistulas) to form. These fistulas can become infected. Finally, many patients suffer from malnutrition as a result of their lack of appetite.
Diagnosis of gastroduodenal Crohn's disease typically requires endoscopy. Endoscopy uses a small flexible camera, which is passed through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and small intestine. This allows physicians to see the inside of the digestive tract. The article from Baylor University notes that patients with gastroduodenal Crohn's disease may have small nodules and small sores in the lower part of their stomach and the duodenum.
Crohn's disease is a problem with the immune system, which means that some of the mainstays of treatment are immunosuppressant medications. According to a 2005 article in the journal "Digestion," titled "Treatment of Gastroduodenal Crohn's Disease," corticosteroids, azathioprine and infliximab can all be used to relieve the symptoms of the disease. Patients with an intestinal blockage may need surgical treatment to help eliminate the swollen tissue that is causing the obstruction.