“I have been struggling with psoriasis for 36 years, and my daughter was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s. I would love to see cures for both in my lifetime”.
A patient shared this quote with us back in 2015, when we surveyed autoimmune patients at Stanford Medicine X and shared some of their stories to help raise awareness for this “invisible” epidemic. Here we are, chugging along in 2018, and this cure that so many patients hope for is still a work in progress.
As Your Autoimmunity Connection, part of our mission is to reshape research, diagnosis, and treatment of all autoimmune diseases. While waiting for cures, we have found that a good place to start is with raising awareness for autoimmune diseases amongst those who may be under-informed, and connecting current patients with the most useful resources available.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
This month, we shine our spotlight on Crohn’s disease, one of the inflammatory bowel diseases that are manifestations of dysregulated immunity. Approximately 780,000 individuals in the United States have already been diagnosed with Crohn’s, and studies have shown that prevalence seems to be rising in both children and adults in the US. The CDC currently estimates that 201 of every 100,000 adults has Crohn’s disease – if we expand that number across the larger world population, that means not only a vast amount of patients, but also their surrounding support communities, are affected by this disease.
This adds up to a lot of suffering, considering that inflammatory bowel diseases, which are characterised by chronic inflammation of the gut, are very unpleasant. Crohn’s can affect any part of the gut, from the small intestine to the large colon, with waxing and waning symptoms that include abdominal pain, bloody stools, severe diarrhea, reduced appetite, unintended weight loss, fever and fatigue.There is possibility of more serious complications (bowel obstruction, chronic malnutrition, dehydration, fistulas, ulcers and megacolon), but early diagnosis and careful management of the underlying disease can often minimize these more extreme symptoms.
How is Crohn’s Diagnosed?
Diagnosis is often delayed by the intermittent nature of the symptoms, although positive fecal occult blood tests are suggestive; endoscopic examination of the bowel is generally needed to confirm IBD. Today’s treatment regimens include anti-inflammatories, immunosuppressants, antibiotics, anti-diarrheals and supplements. Recently, the importance of diet for managing IBD’s has moved from the fringes of functional medicine to the core.
We strongly believe that there is strength in numbers, and strength in raising awareness as an initial step towards action. Read on to become connected with available statistics, research initiatives, supportive patient communities, and still more resources. And check out our Facebook page and forum for more Crohn’s-related updates!
What do the numbers show?
Current available statistics on Crohn’s disease estimate that…
- About 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including roughly 780,000 patients with Crohn’s disease
- The peak age of onset appears to be between 10-20 years of age, with a smaller peak around age 50
- Between 5-20% of patients with an IBD have a first-degree relative with one as well
- Environmental risk factors may include smoking, use of NSAID medications, living in northern climates and industrialized countries (although these may be confounded by genetic influences)
Researchers have estimated that 6-15 new cases of Crohn’s disease are diagnosed per 100,000 each year. What’s more, this autoimmune disease appears to be becoming more common in both adults and children, based on data from the United States. Most cost estimates for IBD were conducted back in 2003-2004, so the total cost of Crohn’s disease in the US, predicted to be about $3.6 billion each year, may likely be even higher.
With both genetic and environmental influences contributing to onset, pinpointing precise causes of this increasing incidence can be challenging. While the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, along with other leading organizations, work towards reevaluating the current state of Crohn’s disease, our team at Your Autoimmunity Connection is connecting patients with one another and with currently available resources.
The good news for those of you reading this – whether you are affected by Crohn’s, have a loved one who is affected, or are simply generally interested – is that the recent rise in understanding from alternative approaches includes that lifestyle changes, including diet, supplements, and exercise, may help moderate symptoms, reduce flares, and complement or replace the need for pharmaceutical treatments.
Connecting you with available resources
Brush up on the basics of Crohn’s disease
If you’ve reached this page and read this far along, chances are high that you already have at least some background knowledge about Crohn’s disease, but it can’t hurt to brush up on the basics. Since Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) it is often confused with ulcerative colitis, a similar IBD that only affects the large intestine. Reading up on the basics can help minimize such misconceptions. The following pages each provide a comprehensive overview of Crohn’s:
- Mayo Clinic: Crohn’s Disease
- Delve beyond a general overview to learn about root causes, risk factors, potential complications, and more
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: What is Crohn’s Disease?
- Recognize the most common signs & symptoms
- Crohn’s & Colitis: Understanding Crohn’s Disease
- Differentiate between Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis, as well as between IBD versus IBS (irritable bowel disease versus syndrome)
- Cleveland Clinic: Disease Management – Crohn’s Disease
- Understand the natural history, pathophysiology, and common treatments
Beyond the basics – diving in deeper
- Everyday Health: Crohn’s Information & Support
- Explore these Crohn’s-related articles, websites, and organizations for more information
- Cleveland Clinic: Crohn’s Disease Resources
- Connect with related institutes, services, and health information
- Mayo Clinic: Departments & specialties
- See which departments are treating and researching this condition
- Milken Institute: IBD Guide
- Check out this comprehensive guide to IBD
For anyone affected – find your patient community
- Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: Support groups & Peer-to-peer support
- Connect with people in your local community, or by email, phone, or Skype, or visit the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Help Center
- Facebook Support Groups
What’s happening in research?
We’ve picked out a few of our favorite research resources – get caught up on recent findings, informed of future directions, and tap into your potential for involvement as a patient:
- ScienceDaily: Crohn’s Disease News
- Explore the latest Crohn’s-related headlines & research news
- Mayo Clinic: Crohn’s Disease – Research
- Browse departments currently engaged in relevant research
- CBS News: New research offers clues to cause of Crohn’s disease
- Science Life: Why we’re winning the battle against Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- We wanted to share this positive article about progress made in Crohn’s disease research
What is one thing everyone should know about Crohn’s disease?
When looking at the big picture, we must remember that Crohn’s disease falls within the larger category of IBDs and autoimmune diseases, of which there are over 100 individual diseases. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that 50 million Americans suffer from one or more autoimmune diseases. What’s more, a research study estimated that approximately 25% of patients with autoimmune diseases have a tendency to develop additional autoimmune diseases.1
We hope that shining the spotlight on Crohn’s disease this month connects you with beneficial resources and information, but we would like to emphasize the need to take a holistic approach in tackling the autoimmune disease epidemic. By looking at all autoimmune diseases together, we can move away from the fragmented statistics that hide the magnitude of the problem and towards concerted action in reshaping research, diagnosis, and treatment. Our model is the revolution in cancer research and treatment that has come from viewing cancer as a group of diseases with common etiologies, thus garnering more resources than individual types of cancer.
Where did we get this data, and where can you find more?
The following pages present statistics surrounding Crohn’s disease incidence, prevalence, and more. Some of these “fast facts” you may be familiar with, but others may surprise you.
- Cleveland Clinic: Crohn’s Disease – Prevalence
- Healthline: Crohn’s Disease by the Numbers
- Crohn’s Disease: Basics & Statistics
Get acquainted with Your Autoimmunity Connection
- Check out our blog at www.drbonnie360.com for all things autoimmune – from updates in research to possible lifestyle modifications, patient stories, and more.
- Find us on Facebook here, or join our Facebook Forum to connect with patients across all autoimmune diseases.
 Cojocaru, M, Inimioara Mihaela Cojocaru, and Isabela Silosi. “Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome.” Mædica 5.2 (2010): 132–134. Print.