Pain in the abdomen can come from many organs. The list includes conditions affecting the gallbladder (cholecystitis), the uterus (endometriosis) and the small intestine (Crohn’s disease). One of the most common causes of chronic inflammation that results in abdominal pain is chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract, specifically the small intestine – where Chronic Crohn’s disease can seriously affect a person’s quality of life. What causes this inflammation and could new painkillers be the answer to this painful condition?
Causes of Inflammation in the Small Intestine
Inflammation is a process that occurs in the body whereby molecules are secreted into the space between the cells that signals to those cells that tissue damage has occurred and that the healing process needs to begin.
The body causes inflammation through a number of processes. These are:
- Damage to the tissue (eg a person is stabbed in their intestine or is in a car accident)
- Infection of the tissue (eg a person gets an infection which causes cells to release inflammatory molecules)
- Cancer grows
- The body attacks itself in an “auto-immune” disease whereby the usual defenses against infections turn and attack the body!
As such, common causes of inflammation in the small intestine fall into these categories.
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): is an excess of the normal bacteria that grow in your gut. Sometimes these bacteria grow too much and cause inflammation of the small intestine, resulting in diarrhea.
- Other intestinal infections: some tummy bugs are caused by an infection in the small intestine.
- Crohn’s disease is the big cause here. Crohn’s disease is a relapsing and recurrent inflammation of the gut that can happen anywhere from the colon, to the small intestine, to the mouth. It is not to be confused with inflammatory bowel disease, which is an umbrella term to describe both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (which does not affect the small intestine).
Crohn’s is one of the most common and serious causes of chronic inflammation of the intestinal tract. Recently Journalist Bryony Hopkins charted her journey through Crohn’s disease and the pain it has caused in her life. She writes in the Metro:
“Boy, were you relentless. You stayed alive and fighting through all the drugs – I mean, kudos to you, you wouldn’t go without a fight, would you?”
This is the reality for many of Crohn’s. But are new treatments on the horizon to stop the constant pain?
Intestinal Inflammation Treatment
Painkillers in Crohn’s disease have often been an issue. Simple over the counter remedies seem unable to keep the gnawing pain at bay, and only large doses of addictive opioids often work. However new opportunities could be on the horizon as specialist clinics have begun offering nerve blocks – where the anesthetic is injected directly around the nerves carrying pain fibers from the stomach – to stop the pain. Clinicians from Pittsburgh have called for these to used in certain patients that aren’t benefitting from current pain relief.
Could this be the relief patients with chronic inflammation of intestines need?