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How do my genes influence my Crohn’s disease?

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Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disease that manifests primarily in the gastrointestinal tract throughout its length. Although the main cause of this disease is not known, it is known that there is a genetic predisposition to develop an alteration at the immune level that can trigger Crohn’s disease.

Crohn's disease and genetics

Several factors increase the risk of Crohn’s disease, such as immunological, microbiological, environmental and genetic factors. It is now known that the most important factor is genetic. Genetic testing can be used to determine the genetically determined individual susceptibility to Crohn’s disease.

Knowing the family history is the first step to be able to diagnose this disease. Its symptoms can be confused with other diseases, so a good diagnosis is essential to be able to treat Crohn’s disease. It is known that having a first-degree relative with Crohn’s disease increases the risk of having it 10 times.

Often the family history may not be known or there may be no concrete data. In these cases it is important to perform a DNA health test on the person suspected of having the disease or on the entire family in order to have complete information. With the results of a DNA test, the genetic predisposition to suffer from Crohn’s disease can be known and can help the specialist to make a more accurate diagnosis.

Crohn’s disease is one of the so-called inflammatory bowel diseases along with ulcerative colitis. It occurs most frequently in the final part of the small intestine and in the beginning of the colon. The symptoms are heterogeneous, which means that each patient has to be treated individually.

The most common symptoms are abdominal pain, prolonged diarrhea, weight loss, fissures and ulcers. Systemic symptoms such as malaise, anorexia or fever are also frequently present. Crohn’s disease has stages of activity (flares) and inactivity (remission).

People affected by Crohn’s disease generally have a good quality of life between flares and can lead a normal life. However, this disease can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. For this reason, early diagnosis is important in order to have an annual endoscopic follow-up every 10 years.

Crohn’s disease has no cure today, but it can be treated to make the flare-ups more bearable. There are pharmacological treatments based on the alteration of the immune system. However, there are treatments that help reduce the symptoms of the disease as well as improve the prognosis. These are lifestyle changes, smoking cessation in smokers, a healthy diet, maintaining proper hydration and regular sports.

If the results of a genetic test indicate that a person has a greater genetic predisposition to Crohn’s disease, it can influence the environmental factors that help to develop it. Although there is no definitive cure, changing some habits along with drugs can lead a normal life with a favorable quality of life.