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Crohn's Disease

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Anatomy of the Gastrointestinal System

The digestive system, is also called the gastrointestinal, or GI, system.

The GI system: After food is chewed and swallowed, it travels through the esophagus to the stomach. There it is partly broken down and then sent to the small intestine, also known as the small bowel. The word "small" refers to the diameter of the small intestine, which is narrower than that of the large bowel. Actually the small intestine is the longest segment of the digestive system -- about 20 feet. The small intestine continues breaking down the food and absorbs most of the nutrients. The small bowel joins the colon in the right lower abdomen.

The colon (also called the large bowel or large intestine) is a muscular tube about 5 feet long. The large intestine consists of the colon and the rectum. The colon is the first 4 to 5 feet of the large intestine, and the rectum is the last 4 to 5 inches of the large intestine. The part of the colon that joins to the rectum is the sigmoid colon. The colon continues to absorb water and mineral nutrients from the food matter and serves as a storage place for waste matter. The waste matter left after this process is feces and goes into the rectum, and from there it passes out of the body through the anus.(2)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease falls under two main headings: Crohn's disease, which can occur anywhere along the entire GI tract, and ulcerative colitis, which occurs only in the colon (large intestine). Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition in which the innner lining of the GI tract becomes inflamed, leading to ulcers and bleeding. The colon is most often the site of this inflammation. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease have symptoms that include diarrhea, abdominal pain, infections, and bleeding.
Location of Crohn's Disease
The inflammation of Crohn's disease is nearly always found in the ileocecal region. The ileocecal region consists of the last few inches of the small intestine (the ileum), which moves digesting food to the beginning portion of the large intestine (the cecum). Crohn's disease, however, can occur anywhere along the digestive tract.

Patient Education Handout

Crohn's Disease a 9-page educational handout from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
Living with Crohn's Disease a 12-page educational brochure from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis: A Guide for Teenagers and Children a 12-page brochure (PDF) from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis: A Guide for Parents a 20-page brochure (PDF) from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
A Guide for Teachers and other School Personnel an 8-page brochure (PDF) from the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
More Educational Brochures for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Clinical Trials on Crohn's Disease A service of the U.S. National Institute of Health
Support Groups in Pinellas County, Florida
Crohn's and Colitis Support Group
7pm, First Tuesday of every month, Morton Plant Hospital, 300 Pinellas Street, Clearwater
Call (727) 723-2207
Educational Video Tutorials
Crohn's Disease from Medline Plus, a service of the Nat'l Library of Medicine and the Nat'l Institute of Health
Internet References for Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease from the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
What People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease Need to Know about Osteoporosis
from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease
Measles Vaccine and Inflammatory Bowel Disease from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Genes and Disease
Inflammatory Bowel Disease from the Nemours Foundation
Crohn's Disease Resource Center at
American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

--Written by N Thompson, ARNP May 2007

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