Regional enteritis is another name for Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease. Common symptoms include cramping in the abdomen, diarrhea, and weight loss. The cause of the disease is unknown, but some factors, such as smoking and family history, can increase a person's risk. Although there is no cure for the condition, it can be controlled in some cases with medication.
Signs and symptoms of regional enteritis tend to begin when a person is a teenager or young adult. Most cases of the disease are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, though some people begin to show signs of the disease after age 50. Crohn's disease is more common among Caucasian people, especially people of European Jewish ancestry. The risk of getting the disease rises sharply if another family member has it, especially if that family member is closely related, such as a sibling. A mutation of a gene called NOD2 may be linked to diagnosis of the disease.
Symptoms of regional enteritis vary depending on where in the intestine the disease occurs. One of the most common symptoms of Crohn's disease is diarrhea, which occurs when the inflamed intestine produces excess salt and water, which the colon cannot absorb. Another common symptom is cramping or pain in the abdominal area. The amount of pain can vary from mild cramps to debilitating pain and vomiting.
People with regional enteritis may experience unintended weight loss as the inflammation of the digestive system prevents nutrients from being absorbed. If the body continues to be unable to absorb the needed nutrients, a person can become malnourished. Inflammation can also cause a person to lose his appetite, which can contribute to weight loss.
Signs of a severe form of regional enteritis include fever and a feeling of fatigue. A person may pass bloody stool and experience ulcers along the digestive tract, including in the mouth. Other complications include obstruction of the bowel and fistulas, or connections between two organs that shouldn't be connected, such as the intestine and the skin. A fistula can cause the contents of the intestine to flow directly to the skin, where an abscess can form.
A number of medications can help control Crohn's disease, including anti-inflammatory medicines such as sulfasalazine or corticosteroids. Other medications that can help control the disease include immune system suppressors and basic anti-diarrheal medicines. Medications aren't always effective at controlling symptoms, though. Some people may need surgery to remove fistulas or damaged areas of the intestine.