What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s Disease is a part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes uncomfortable inflammation of your digestive tract, namely your colon. Crohn’s Disease is different from the other form of IBD known as ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s Disease is typically found at the end of the small intestine, the beginning of the colon, and may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus.
Also, Crohn’s Disease can affect the entirety of the bowel wall and spread into deeper layers of affected bowel tissue. Crohn’s disease can be very painful and possibly lead to more serious complications.
What are the main symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?
Most symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease develop gradually, and they range from mild to severe. They can include:
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal Pain
- Stomach cramps
- Mouth sores
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus
- Sudden weight loss
- Loss of normal menstrual cycle
- Poor development in children
- Rectal bleeding
If you ever experience blood in your stool contact your closest TDDC location immediately.
When should I contact a doctor about my symptoms?
You should contact your closest gastroenterologist immediately if you notice persisting changes in your bowel habits, or you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent and/or severe abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fever lasting more than a day
- Persistent diarrhea
Is Crohn’s Disease Fatal?
Crohn’s Disease is not a fatal disease.
However, if left unmanaged and untreated, over time, a person with Crohn’s Disease can develop complications that can be fatal. TDDC has several clinical trials to help manage the symptoms and improve the lives of those living with Crohn’s Disease.
What Are The Complications Of Crohn’s Disease?
Intestinal blockage can occur in people with Crohn’s disease. Blockage occurs because the intestinal wall thickens or swells from inflammation and scar tissue. Ulcers can also cause tunnels to form through the inflamed areas of the intestine or even the healthy parts.
Also, if you have Crohn’s disease you might not get enough protein, vitamins, or calories in your diet. This can happen because you have an upset stomach keeping you from eating enough food, you may be losing protein in the intestine or you may not be able to absorb nutrients from your food.
Other issues include:
- Skin problems
- Swelling in the eyes or mouth
- Kidney stones
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
The exact cause of Crohn’s Disease is still unknown. There are, however, some factors that seem to affect the onset of Crohn’s Disease and its symptoms.
- Immune System- it is likely that internal bacteria or viruses will trigger Crohn’s Disease because when your body activates your immune system to fight the virus or bacteria an abnormal immune response can attack the cells in the digestive system as well. As a result, parts of the small intestine and colon become inflamed.
- Genetics- you may inherit genes from your parents that put you at a higher risk of developing Crohn’s Disease. As many as 20% of people with Crohn’s disease have a relative with Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory bowel disease. It is most common in people between the ages of 20 and 30.
What Are The Treatments For Crohn’s Disease?
There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease and treatment will vary from person to person. The main objectives of treatments for Crohn’s Disease are to control the inflammation that triggers your pain symptoms and then achieve and retain remission. There are five main categories of treatments for Crohn’s Disease; antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, nutrition and medications that help you manage your symptoms. In the best cases, Crohn’s Disease can go into long term remission in a patient being properly treated.
Antibiotics can help destroy the bacteria that trigger the abnormal immune system response that causes inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to treat Crohn’s Disease have two categories; Corticosteroids and Oral 5-aminosalicylates. Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation in your body and can be used in combination with immune system suppressors. Oral 5-aminosalicylates can help reduce the inflammation in your body as well.
Immune system suppressors
Immune system suppressors help limit your body’s abnormal response to bacteria and viruses. Over time, this will help reduce the inflammation caused by this abnormal response. Some of the immunosuppressant drugs that your gastroenterologist might prescribe you include: azathioprine, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab, methotrexate, natalizumab, vedolizumab, and ustekinumab.
Your gastroenterologist might recommend a special diet be given at the beginning of your treatment to induce remission. Often times this diet is administered by a feeding tube or by having nutrients injected into a vein.
Some patients with Crohn’s disease may need surgery to treat blockage, fistulas, infection, or bleeding if medication is not helping. Others may also need surgery to remove the diseased piece of the intestine.
Medications For Symptoms
- Pain relievers
- Iron supplements
- Vitamin B-12 shots
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements