New Delhi: Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram — who is in the custody of Enforcement Directorate in connection with the INX media money-laundering case — is reportedly suffering from chronic Crohn’s disease, which is ‘rare’ in India and quite painful.
Sources close to the former minister said, “It would be good if Chidambaram was immediately referred to some super speciality hospital for treatment, considering his poor health.”
The Congress leader was admitted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital Monday morning after he complained of stomach ache and illness. Later, he was referred to AIIMS.
In India, Crohn’s disease was considered almost non-existent until 1986, according to a research by Mumbai-based Jaslok Hospital and Research Center’s Department of Gastroenterology.
But “during the last 10 years, Crohn’s is being reported more frequently from different parts of India, especially southern India”, the research said.
What is Crohn’s disease?
It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) under which the digestive system becomes inflamed.
According to US-based non-profit Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF), the disease “can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, but most commonly affects the end of the small bowel and the beginning of the colon”.
The CCF, which is engaged in finding cures for the disease, says the disease can also affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall — the organ from where the human waste is discharged.
The disease can occur at any age, but it is often diagnosed between 20 and 30 years of age.
“Studies have shown that between 1.5 per cent and 28 per cent of people with IBD have a first-degree relative, such as a parent, child, or sibling, who also has one of the diseases,” according to the CCF.
The UK’s National Health Service, which is the country’s healthcare system, says, “There’s no evidence to suggest a particular diet causes Crohn’s disease.”
Known as a chronic disease, patients suffering from it experience two phases — one when their symptoms are active and second, when there are no symptoms at all.
The recurrence of active symptoms is called “flare”. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are frequent and urgent bowel movements along diarrhoea, bleeding in stools, abdominal pain and cramps, vomiting and weight loss.
According to the CCF, the symptoms vary from person to person and may change over time. Some patients also report fatigue, lack of appetite, joint aches, body aches, rashes and eye problems, including loss of vision.
In many cases, symptoms depend on the location of the disease within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There is no cure available for the disease and the treatment only aims at delaying the frequency of recurrence of symptoms for as long as possible.
Types of Crohn’s disease
There are five kinds of Crohn’s disease, and all of them are painful, and cause diarrhoea and weight loss.
The most popular type is ‘Ileocolitis’, which affects the end of the small intestine, known as the terminal ileum, and the large intestine, known as colon.
The second type is ‘Ileitis’ that only affects the ileum. The third type is ‘Gastroduodenal’, which affects the stomach and the beginning of the small intestine.
The fourth type, ‘Jejunoileitis’, forms patchy areas of inflammation in the upper half of the small intestine. The last one, ‘Colitis’, only affects the colon.
How to treat Crohn’s disease?
According to health experts, the disease is unlikely to become life-threatening if managed well by diet and medications.
The medications are given to suppress the inflammation, providing temporary relief, and reduce symptoms, including diarrhea and irritable bowels.
However, despite proper medication and diet, about 70 per cent of people with Crohn’s disease eventually require surgery, the CCF says.
“Approximately 30 per cent of patients who have surgery for Crohn’s disease experience recurrence of their symptoms within three years and up to 60 per cent will have recurrence within ten years,” it says.
Crohn’s disease in India
The disease is considered ‘rare’ in India.
There are no latest numbers available on the incidence of Crohn’s disease in India, but estimates by renowned Crohn’s specialist Dr Rahul Shah puts the figure at 7 per 1 lakh population. Shah works at Mumbai-based SL Raheja Hospital, which is a Fortis Associate.
“Whilst the Europeans are more predisposed to Crohn’s, in India the Hindu’s have the least prevalence followed by the Muslims and Christians,” he wrote in his column for BioSpectrum, a healthcare magazine.
According to a study, titled ‘Crohn’s Disease in India: A Multicenter Study from a Country Where Tuberculosis Is Endemic’, there is a lack of systematic study on Crohn’s disease from the country.
The study concluded that the type of Crohn’s disease in India is “very similar to that described in other regions of Asia and the West, except for a delay in diagnosis and a more complicated disease at diagnosis”.