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The intestinal tract plays a crucial role for health. It does not resorbe nutrients but also is the organ where approximately 70 % of the immune cells reside. A disease can lead to severe symptoms.

Persistent diarrhea, cramping abdominal pain, bleeding and fever are the symptoms of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). These include especially Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In ulcerative colitis the colon is inflamed. It is an inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, which is the innermost layer of the intestines. In contrast, in Crohn’s disease all layers of the intestines are affected by inflammation, which can result in problems in all sections of the digestive tract.

An interplay of many factors

In Germany, approximately 320,000 people have Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The diseases occur very early, between the ages of 20 and 30, and are currently incurable. The exact causes leading to a chronic inflammation of the intestines are as yet not known for sure. A genetic predisposition appears, however, to be certain, as there are families in which chronic inflammatory bowel diseases frequently occur and a number of genetic risk factors have been identified through epidemiological studies. In fact, more than 70 risk genes for Crohn’s disease have meanwhile been discovered.

A role of various environmental factors seems very likely, since the probability of illness depends on the country you live in, as well as whether you live in the city or the countryside. 
What is certain is that smoking can be a causative factor in Crohn’s disease, since smokers are twice as likely to become ill.

The goal of therapy in chronic inflammatory bowel diseases is nowadays primarily to reduce acute inflammations and therefore to prevent the acute symptoms such as diarrhea and pain. To accomplish this, pharmaceuticals are used that should reduce the inflammation but also weaken the immune defenses of the body.
Some of the world leading experts for inflammatory bowel diseases work in the Cluster and the CCIM on IBD trying to develope a method not only to treat symptoms but to heal the disease or prevent it from starting.

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