08/26/2022 – 8:00
Virus infects digestive tract and can exacerbate symptoms for sufferers
By Gabriela Cupani, from Agência Einstein
Two new studies suggest that among the various impacts of Covid-19 in the organism, there is still the chance of a worsening in the conditions that generate the inflammatory bowel diseases.
One of them, published in the scientific journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseasesevaluated almost 3 thousand patients with these diseases and found that intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain are very common during Covid-19.
The other, published in American Journal of Gastroenterology, presents two cases of adolescents who were healthy but had a family history of inflammatory bowel disease. They developed the Crohn’s disease after infection by coronavirus.
“Coronavirus is known to infect the gastrointestinal tractso that it is common for patients to manifest symptoms such as diarrhea and nausea”, explains the gastroenterologist Rafael Ximenes, from Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, in Goiânia.
“Covid-19 can indeed be a trigger for the exacerbation of symptoms in those who already have the inflammatory disease”, he adds. However, according to the specialist, it is not possible to say that the coronavirus is solely responsible for the development of the disease in previously healthy patients.
“We cannot exclude the possibility that these people would develop the disease in the future anyway,” says Ximenes.
It is worth noting that people who have inflammatory bowel disease should seek guidance from their doctor if they have Covid-19 to adjust their medications if necessary, but never stop treatment on their own, as the specialist guides.
Action and diagnosis
Inflammatory bowel diseases affect nearly 10 million people worldwide and are the generic name for several chronic disorders that affect the gastrointestinal tract. The most common are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In common, it is known that they do not have a well-defined cause, but it is certain that they have genetic and immunological components.
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system, such as stomach, esophagus and intestine. Inflammation in these cases is usually deeper and affects the entire wall of the organ. Colitis already causes colon sores (large intestine) and rectum, but is usually more superficial. They have periods of exacerbation and others of improvement, with symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, mucus-filled stools, among others.
“This is one of the reasons for the delay in diagnosis”, says Ximenes. When in doubt, the dosage of inflammatory substances in the blood and feces is indicated, in addition to imaging tests such as tomography or resonance. But colonoscopy is the main test to diagnose the problem and rule out other causes, such as tumors.
In most cases, it is not possible to identify a trigger for the onset of inflammation. Research shows a relationship with excess industrialized foods. Infections by microorganisms such as cytomegalovirus or Clostridium difficile can also lead to exacerbation of the condition in those with inflammatory bowel disease.
While there is no cure for these illnesses, it is possible to keep them under control to prevent further flare-ups. Treatment includes changes in lifestyle habits, such as diet, and medication. The most modern are biological – laboratory-produced antibodies that fight inflammation. In cases of intestinal obstruction, a surgical procedure is sometimes necessary.
Without treatment, inflammation can attack the walls of the organ, forming a scar, fibrosis, which does not always regress, and can cause narrowing. In the case of rectocolitis, it can increase the chance of tumor in the intestine.
Source: Einstein Agency
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