Stomach Ulcers and Crohn's: Does One Cause the Other?
Stomach ulcers and Crohn's are both diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. However, is there an additional connection? Researchers are beginning to believe there is.
Stomach ulcers (also known as peptic ulcers) are open sores inside the lining of the stomach. A bacterial infection run amuck is the most frequent cause of ulcers. The stomach's natural protection mechanism becomes overwhelmed and cannot effectively fight the bacteria. Other less common causes of ulcers include excessive use of harmful substances, such as alcohol and cocaine, stress, autoimmune disease, chemotherapy and radiation. Stomach ulcers are extremely common. Experts estimate that at least 25 million Americans will get an ulcer at least once in their life.
People with Crohn's disease often take anti-inflammatory drugs as part of their treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs can take two forms: steroidal and antisteroidal. Steroids work by suppressing the immune system's response to inflammation. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), in contrast, stop an enzyme that prevents our body from performing a specific function.
In Crohn's patients, the immune system cannot calm the inflammatory response in the intestines, which damages the lining of the intestines. Physicians sometimes prescribe NSAIDS to reduce inflammation. You're probably familiar with the most common commercial forms of NSAIDS: aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium. Short-term use of NSAIDS is not a problem. However, since Crohn's is a chronic disease, patients often take these drugs for a long time. Long-term use of NSAIDS makes the stomach vulnerable to upset and ulcers.
H. pylori, a microbe, is the primary cause of stomach ulcers. This discovery has prompted researchers to question whether H. Pylori, or other microbes, might also cause unrelated diseases. There is no evidence yet that microbes are responsible for Crohn's disease, however, the data suggests that the immune system in a person with Crohn's does not properly recognize harmful microbes, which leads to a faulty inflammatory response and eventually disease development. Researchers are studying the possibility of such a connection.
They have also discovered a specific gene mutation in people with Crohn's that further supports a link between naturally occurring bacteria and their interaction with the body's immune response.
Crohn's is implicated in stomach ulcers because it can cause chronic inflammation in the stomach. However, Crohn's disease is not one of the main causes of ulcers.
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