10 Facts About Crohn’s Disease

iStock.com/Carlo107
iStock.com/Carlo107

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease in which the immune system attacks the lining of the intestine, usually the ending of the small intestine (called the ileum) or the colon. But it's more than just a case of irritable bowels. Crohn's disease symptoms range from abdominal cramps to ulcers that eat through the intestinal wall, and the complications—including pain, diarrhea, and malnutrition—can be sometimes be fatal. But with a proper diagnosis and the right medical care, managing the condition is possible for patients with Crohn’s. Here are more facts about Crohn's disease, from testing to treatments.

1. Crohn's disease causes are unknown, but genetics may be involved.

The exact causes of Crohn’s disease haven’t been identified, but for many people, family history plays a role. About 15 percent of Crohn’s patients share the diagnosis with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child). Whether the family cluster patterns have more to do with genetics or environment is still unclear, though environmental factors appear to have more of an impact on the development of Crohn's disease symptoms. Scientists have also identified more than 200 gene variants that could influence Crohn's disease risk, mostly affecting genes related to immune system function.

2. Crohn's disease symptoms can come and go.

Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract, and common signs include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, fatigue, and fever. In severe cases, the inflammation can cause ulcers in the intestinal wall that prevents nutrient absorption, which can lead to weight loss and malnutrition. The intensity of these symptoms can be unpredictable. Flare-ups of gastrointestinal distress can last weeks to months, and there can also be long stretches of time when patients live symptom-free. Anti-inflammatory treatments can encourage the symptoms to go into remission, but the disease can never be cured completely.

3. Your diet can make Crohn's disease symptoms worse.

Doctors used to think of diet as one of the main causes of Crohn’s disease, but now it’s just thought to be a factor that exacerbates the symptoms. Certain foods can aggravate the digestive systems of people with Crohn’s. High-fiber foods, such fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, are some of the worst culprits, though cooked fruits and vegetables are generally gentler on the GI tract than raw ones.

4. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are not the same.

People commonly confuse ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease. The two conditions are both inflammatory bowel diseases (which are different than irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, which involves intestinal muscle contractions rather than inflammation). Both UC and Crohn's disease share symptoms such as weight loss, rectal bleeding, and diarrhea. But they differ in important ways: UC is limited to the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease can develop anywhere on the gastrointestinal tract between the mouth and anus. UC inflammation is also concentrated on the innermost intestinal lining, whereas can Crohn’s can penetrate the entire bowel wall. If you suspect you have an IBD, a doctor can help you identify the exact condition.

5. Crohn's disease can also affect the joints, eyes, and skin.

Crohn’s disease is known as a gastrointestinal disease, but the symptoms can extend beyond the digestive tract. People experiencing inflammation in the colon can also have inflammation in the joints. Up to 25 percent of patients with Crohn’s or UC also suffer from arthritis. Other complications include inflammation of the skin and eyes. Because eye tissue is so sensitive, ocular symptoms like redness and itchiness often appear before the first gastrointestinal signs.

6. A fecal occult blood test is one way to diagnose Crohn's disease.

There’s no one test for Crohn’s disease. Instead, doctors diagnose the condition by performing a series of tests to rule out other possible ailments. Testing poop samples with a fecal occult blood test can reveal hidden (or occult) blood in a patient’s stool, and testing antibodies can indicate whether symptoms are caused by Crohn’s or UC. Imaging tests—such as an ultrasound, MRI, X-ray, CT scan, or colonoscopy—gives doctors visual clues to the extent of a patient’s condition.

7. Incidence of Crohn's disease is increasing.

Crohn’s affects people of all ages, but symptoms usually appear in younger patients: People in the 15-to-35 age group are most likely to be diagnosed with the condition. Childhood cases of Crohn’s disease can lead to complications like delayed growth. Some studies have shown that the disease is becoming more prevalent, especially in Western countries and in children. Researchers think the "Westernized lifestyle" of poor-quality diet and lack of exercise are contributing factors to the increase.

8. Crohn's disease complications can be deadly.

If left untreated, Crohn’s disease can lead to some life-threatening complications. Inflammation can permanently damage the intestines, scarring parts the GI tract and causing tissue to thicken. In some cases, the damage is so severe that the bowel becomes blocked and surgery is required to remove the obstruction. Another possible complication is a fistula: an ulcer that has penetrated the intestinal wall and connected into a different part of the body, such as another organ or skin. An infected fistula is potentially fatal if ignored. Crohn's disease also increases a patient's risk of developing colorectal cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease is the third highest risk factor for colorectal cancer cases, though IBD-related cancer incidence is decreasing in some countries.

9. Surgery is a last resort for Crohn's disease.

Though Crohn’s disease can’t be cured, it can be managed. Most patients are initially put on anti-inflammatory medications. Other drugs, like pain relievers, nutritional supplements, and anti-diarrheal medications, are prescribed to treat the symptoms of the disease. If the condition doesn't improve, patients may require surgery to remove damaged portions of the bowel, close fistulas, and drain abscesses. Doctors may also recommend specific dietary changes to avoid flare-ups.

10. Crohn's disease was identified in the 1930s.

In 1932, gastroenterologist Burrill B. Crohn and his colleagues Leon Ginzburg and Gordon D. Oppenheimer identified the condition now known as Crohn’s disease, which Crohn called ileitis (meaning inflammation of the ileum). Prior to the report, the condition was thought to be type of a tuberculosis and not an inflammatory bowel disease. In addition to helping define the disease that bears his name, Crohn was one of the first medical professionals to link gastrointestinal distress to anxiety. He also published a book with the charming title Affections of the Stomach in 1927 and commented in media reports when President Dwight D. Eisenhower came down with ileitis symptoms in 1956.

10 Historically Disappointing Time Capsules

eag1e/iStock via Getty Images
eag1e/iStock via Getty Images

Unearthing a time capsule should be an exciting affair, a chance to see mysterious items hand-picked long ago as apposite examples of a bygone era. Unfortunately, these buried tubes of old garbage rarely live up to the hype.

"Ninety-nine percent of time capsules will remain boring as hell to the people that open them," says Matt Novak, who runs Gizmodo's Paleofuture site. Novak is a self-professed time capsule nerd who has seen enough capsule disappointments to keep his hopes in check. "Time capsules are both optimistic and selfish," he tells Mental Floss. "Optimistic in the sense that they represent a belief that not only will anyone find them sometime in the future, but also that anyone will care about what's inside."

Time capsules as we know them are a relatively new invention that became famous in 1939 with the burial of the Westinghouse Time Capsule at the World's Fair. This highly publicized capsule, which is not scheduled to be opened until the year 6939, contains both quotidian items and extensive writings on human history printed on microfilm (along with instructions on how to build a microfilm viewer). It was an ambitious project, with engineers specially designing the capsule to resist the ravages of time. Most time capsules, however, aren't equipped to be buried underground.

"Burying something is literally the worst way to preserve it for future generations," Novak says, "but we continue to do it." Contents are routinely destroyed by groundwater, so most time capsules reveal little more than trash chowder.

Still, Novak holds out hope for "rare one percenters—those time capsules that not only have something interesting inside, but also survived their journey into the future without turning into mush." The following 10 time capsules, however, fall firmly in the remaining 99 percent.

1. Derry, New Hampshire comes up empty

Just this week, residents of Derry, New Hampshire gathered at the local library to witness what they hoped might be an important moment in the town's history: the opening of a 1969 time capsule, which they believed might include some memorabilia from famed astronaut Alan Shepard, who was a Derry native. Instead, they found ... nothing. Absolutely nothing.

"We were a little horrified to find there was nothing in it," library director Cara Potter told the media. While there's no written record of exactly what was inside the safe, we do know that the time capsule had been moved a couple of times over the past several decades. And that the combination was written right on the back. "I really can’t understand why anyone would want to take the capsule and do anything with it,” Reed Clark, a 90-year-old local, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. But local historian Paul Lindemann says that, "There very well may have been valuable items in there" (including something of Shepard's).

2. The past comes alive in Tucson

In 1961, Tucson, Arizona's Campbell Plaza shopping center—the first air-conditioned strip mall in the country—celebrated its grand opening. To make the event truly memorable, developers buried a time capsule beneath the mall, forbidding anyone from opening it for the achingly long time period of 25 years.

When 1986 finally rolled around, another celebration was held for the capsule's unearthing. Three television crews captured the moment when workers, accompanied by a former Tucson mayor, excavated the capsule and cracked it open. Archaeologist William L. Rathje was on hand, and he later reported its contents as "a faded local newspaper (in worse condition than many I’ve witnessed being excavated from the bowels of landfills) and some business cards."

3. Bay City makes peace with its waterlogged history

In 1965, workers at Dafoe Shipbuilding Co. in Bay City, Michigan buried the “John F. Kennedy Peace Capsule.” It was to remain buried for 100 years—until city council members got antsy in 2015 and ordered for it to be unearthed five decades sooner than originally intended.

When crews unsealed the giant capsule, they found it was totally drenched: The shipbuilders responsible for sealing the capsule couldn't prevent it from taking on water. Many of the items were paper ephemera that didn't survive their 50-year submersion.

Non-paper items that could be identified included, according to MLive.com, “an old pair of lace-up women's boots, large ice tongs for carrying blocks of ice, a slide rule with a pencil sharpener, a pestle and wooden bowl, a centennial ribbon, a coffee grinder, a filament light bulb, an old non-electric iron and lots of Bay City Centennial plates, a 1965 Alden's Summer Catalogue, papers from Kawkawlin Community Church, and booklets from the labor council.”

4. Westport Elementary's too-successful capsule

In 1947, the superintendent of Westport Elementary School in Missouri buried a time capsule that wasn't to be opened for another 50 years. He left a note detailing this fact, but he forgot to include any information about the capsule's location. When it came time to retrieve it, no one knew where to start digging. ''We're calling it a history mystery,'' said a teacher who was tasked with finding it. She had little to go on, as the school's original blueprints—like the capsule itself—were lost.

5. The smell of history on Long Island

For its 350th anniversary in 2015, the residents of Smithtown in Long Island, New York opened a time capsule that had been buried in front of town hall in 1965. An unveiling celebration was held, and a crowd of more than 175 gathered to watch town officials dressed in colonial costumes dramatically reveal its contents.

These included, according to Newsday, "a proclamation of beard-growing group Brothers of the Brush, papers, and paraphernalia from the town's 300th anniversary events, a phone book, an edition of The Smithtown News, pennies from the 1950s and '60s, a man's black hat, and a white bonnet.”

Town residents and officials alike came away unimpressed. "I would have thought those folks would have used a little more imagination and put some artifacts from that time in the time capsule," Smithtown's then-supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

Kiernan Lannon, the executive director of the town's Historical Society, told Newsday, "The most interesting thing that came out of the time capsule was the smell. It was horrible. I have smelled history before; history does not smell like that. It was the most powerfully musty smell that I've ever smelled in my life."

6. A time capsule worse than going to class

In 2014, New York Mills Union Free School District students filed into an assembly hall to watch the opening of a 57-year-old time capsule. The capsule, buried under the school’s cornerstone, was revealed to contain "a 1957 penny, class lists, teacher handbook, budget pamphlet, and letterhead." In a video of the unearthing, you could hear stray boos from disappointed students who expected much more than letterhead.

7. Norway's anachronistic treasure trove

The residents of Otta, Norway had been eagerly awaiting the day when they'd get to open a package that had been sealed in 1912 and given to the town's first mayor in 1920, along with a note: "May be opened in 2012." Townspeople hoped it contained oil futures, while historians optimistically predicted relics from a 400-year-old battle.

The parcel was opened at the end of a lavish ceremony that featured musical performances and speeches. The crowd, which included Princess Astrid of Norway, had to wait 90 suspenseful minutes (in addition to the 100 years since 1912) before they got down to business.

The Gudbrandsdal museum's Kjell Voldheim had the honor of opening the package. Inside he found ... another package. Inside that package were miscellaneous papers, and Voldheim narrated for the crowd as he pored through the items. “Oye yoy yoy," he said ("almost in exasperation," according to Smithsonian), as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Included among the lackluster documents were newspapers dated from 1914 and 1919, a few years after the package had presumably been sealed. While deemed authentic, the find was nonetheless confusing.

8. New Zealand's rare find

In 1995, a 100-year-old capsule thought to contain historical documents was opened by hopeful scholars in New Zealand. According to The New York Times, "all they found was muddy water and a button.”

9. Michigan's capitol mess

The Michigan State Capitol celebrated its 100th birthday in 1979, and officials marked the occasion by opening a capsule that had been buried beneath the building's cornerstone. While the itemized list of the capsule's contents was intriguing—"1873 newspapers, a state history, a history of Free Masonry, a copy of the Declaration of Independence, a silver plate inscribed with Lansing officials’ names, and other papers on specialized topics"—it wasn't included in the actual box. The actual items that were buried wound up being destroyed.

“They’re in very bad shape,” Robert Warner, the late director of the University of Michigan's Bentley Historical Library, said. Water damage had ruined the fragile paper documents, and Capitol anniversary revelers had to gamely celebrate a box full of sludge.

10. Keith Urban's time capsule confusion

Australia's Pioneer Village Country Music Hall had been left in disrepair, which is what made the discovery of a plaque on its grounds in 2014 so exciting. Perhaps there was promise buried beneath the abandoned venue. Hidden behind overgrown vegetation, it read:

Pioneer Village Country Music Club
10 yr Time Capsule
Placed by Mayor Yvonne Chapman
This Day 4th July 1994
To be Re-opened 4th July 2004

As recounted by Paleofuture, the capsule's opening was a decade overdue, though fans who used to frequent the music hall said they already knew what was inside: a photo of a young Keith Urban. The musician got his start at Pioneer Village, and the photo was buried to celebrate the local star.

Oddly, a different capsule from 1994 was discovered on the music hall's abandoned grounds in 2013. Keith Urban fans eagerly opened it, thinking they had found the photo, but were left disappointed when it proved to be empty. So, by process of elimination, a photo of Keith Urban had to be in the more recently discovered capsule. Unless there's a third capsule, in which case they should probably just give up and buy a Keith Urban photo on eBay.

This story has been updated for 2019.

The 25 Best Colleges in America

Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images
Vasyl Dolmatov/iStock via Getty Images

The college decision process is always a tough one, but review site Niche's annual rankings of the best colleges in America make it easier for prospective students (and their parents) to narrow down the choices to find the best fit. The 2020 list takes a variety of factors into account, including student life, admissions, finances, and student reviews. But the most important factor in their methodology, comprising 40 percent of a school's overall rating, is academics, which, according to the Niche website, looks at "acceptance rate, quality of professors, as well as student and alumni surveys regarding academics at the school."

Taking the number one spot on Niche's list for the second year in a row is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by Stanford University in the number two spot (again, for the second year in a row). Six of America's eight Ivy League schools made it into the top 10.

Here are the 25 Best Colleges in America for 2020, according to Niche's rankings.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology // Cambridge, MA

  1. Stanford University // Stanford, CA

  1. Yale University // New Haven, CT

  1. Harvard University // Cambridge, MA

  1. Princeton University // Princeton, NJ

  1. Duke University // Durham, NC

  1. Brown University // Providence, RI

  1. Columbia University // New York, NY

  1. University of Pennsylvania // Philadelphia, PA

  1. Rice University // Houston, TX

  1. Northwestern University // Evanston, IL

  1. Vanderbilt University // Nashville, TN

  1. Pomona College // Claremont, CA

  1. Washington University in St. Louis // St. Louis, MO

  1. Dartmouth College // Hanover, NH

  1. California Institute of Technology // Pasadena, CA

  1. University of Notre Dame // Notre Dame, IN

  1. University of Chicago // Chicago, IL

  1. University of Southern California // Los Angeles, CA

  1. Cornell University // Ithaca, NY

  1. Bowdoin College // Brunswick, ME

  1. Amherst College // Amherst, MA

  1. University of Michigan // Ann Arbor, MI

  1. Georgetown University // Washington DC

  1. Tufts University // Medford, MA

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