Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease often spreads deep into the layers of the affected bowel tissue and different areas of the digestive tract. It can be both painful and debilitating and in some cases, lead to life-threatening complications.
The most common areas affected by Crohn's disease are the last part of the small intestine and the colon.
Signs & Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease range from mild to severe. They usually develop gradually, but sometimes appear suddenly, without warning. You may also have periods of time when you have no signs or symptoms, this is called remission.
When crohn’s disease is active, signs and symptoms may include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in your stool
- Mouth sores
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
The exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but doctors have confirmed that while these factors may aggravate Crohn’s disease, they are not the cause. A number of other factors, such as heredity and a malfunctioning immune system, likely play a role in the development of Crohn’s disease.
- Heredity - Crohn's is more common in people who have family members with the disease. Therefore, genetics may play a role in making people more susceptible. However, most people with Crohn's disease don't have a family history of the disease.
- Immune system - It's possible that a virus or bacteria may trigger Crohn's disease. When your immune system tries to fight off the invading microorganism, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too.
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Currently, there is no cure for Crohn's disease, and there is no one treatment that works for everyone. The goal of medical treatment is to reduce the inflammation that triggers the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease and improve long-term prognosis by limiting complications. In the best cases, this may lead not only to symptom relief but also to long-term remission.
Anti-Inflammatory drugs are often the first step in treating an inflammatory bowel disease.
- Oral 5-aminosalicylates
Immune system suppressors reduce inflammation while targeting your immune system, and in result, produces substances that cause inflammation. For some patients, a combination of these drugs work better than one drug alone.
- Azathioprine and mercaptopurine
Antibiotics can reduce the amount of drainage and sometimes heal fistulas and abscesses in people with Crohn's disease. Some researchers have also stated that antibiotics help reduce harmful intestinal bacteria that may play a role in activating the intestinal immune system and lead to inflammation. Frequently prescribed antibiotics include ciprofloxacin (cipro) and metronidazole (flagyl).
- Pain relievers
- Iron supplements
- Vitamin b-12 shots
- Calcium and Vitamin D supplements
Crohn’s Disease Surgery
If diet and lifestyle changes, drug therapy and/or other treatments don't relieve your signs and symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery. Roughly 50% of individuals with Crohn's disease will require at least one surgery. However, surgery does not cure Crohn's disease.
During surgery, your surgeon removes a damaged portion of your digestive tract and then reconnects the healthy sections. Surgery may also be used to close fistulas and drain abscesses.
The benefits of surgery for Crohn's disease are usually temporary. The disease often recurs near the reconnected tissue. Doctors recommend following surgery with medication to minimize the risk of recurrence.
When to See Your Doctor
If you have persistent changes in your bowel habits or if you recognize any signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your crohn’s disease physician.
Risk Factors of Crohn’s Disease
- Family history
- Cigarette Smoking
Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
Your doctor will likely diagnose Crohn's disease only after ruling out other possible causes for your signs and symptoms. There is no one test to diagnose Crohn's disease.
This includes a combination of tests to help confirm a diagnosis of Crohn's disease, including:
- Test for anemia or infection
- Fecal occult blood test
- CT Scan
- Capsule endoscopy
Your doctor may recommend a special diet including:
- Low residue or low-fiber diet
- Enteral nutrition
- Parenteral nutrition
This can improve your overall nutrition and allow the bowel to rest. Bowel rest can reduce inflammation temporarily.
Your doctor may use nutrition therapy short term and combine it with medications, such as immune system suppressors.
If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of Crohn’s disease, contact the leading crohn’s disease physician in Katy to schedule an appointment.