Crohn's Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Disabled World: Revised/Updated: 2018/04/05
Synopsis: Crohns Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease where the digestive system becomes swollen and present deep sores called ulcers.
Crohn's Disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which affects a person over their lifetime. Portions of the person's digestive system become swollen and present deep sores called ulcers.
Crohn's disease, also known as Crohn syndrome and regional enteritis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody if inflammation is severe), fever, and weight loss. Other complications may occur outside the gastrointestinal tract and include anemia, skin rashes, arthritis, inflammation of the eye, and tiredness.
Crohn's disease is usually located in the last portion of the person's small intestine and the first portion of their large intestine. It can; however, develop anywhere in a person's digestive tract - from the mouth to the anus.
Medical science does not know the causes of Crohn's disease at this time. It may be contacted when the person's immune system has an abnormal response to otherwise normal bacteria that is present in their intestine. Additional forms of viruses and bacteria may also contribute to causing this disease.
Crohn's disease may run in families; the chances of getting this disease are higher if another family member has it. Persons of Eastern European Jewish family background may have a higher potential of getting Crohn's disease. Smoking increases the risk of this disease as well.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
Symptoms depend on what part of the digestive tract is involved. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and can come and go with periods of flare-ups. The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Watery diarrhea, which may be bloody
- Cramp pain in the abdomen (belly area)
- Feeling that you need to pass stools, even though your bowels are already empty. It may involve straining, pain, and cramping.
Other symptoms may include:
- Mouth ulcers
- Swollen gums
- Joint pain and swelling
- Sores or swelling in the eyes
- Rectal bleeding and bloody stools
- Tender, red bumps (nodules) under the skin which may turn into skin ulcers
- Draining of pus, mucus, or stools from around the rectum or anus (caused by something called a fistula)
Diarrhea and stomach pain are the main symptoms of Crohn's disease; the diarrhea may be accompanied with blood at times. Persons with Crohn's disease may experience diarrhea ten to twenty times per day. Unexplained weight loss is an additional sign of the disease. Symptoms which are less common include bowel blockages, mouth sores, anal tears, and openings between organs. Hormonal changes, infections, stress and smoking can cause symptom flare-ups.
Persons with Crohn's disease may experience only mild symptoms, or long periods of time without symptoms. Some people who have Crohn's disease do experience severe, ongoing symptoms. Awareness of signs that Crohn's disease is worsening is important. If you have Crohn's disease and experience any of the following signs, you need to contact a doctor. These signs include feeling faint, having a fast or weak pulse, or experiencing severe stomach pain. Other signs that require a doctor's attention include fever, shaking chills, and repetitious vomiting.
Diagnosis of Crohn's Disease
The diagnostic process for Crohn's disease involves a physical examination, during which a doctor will ask about the symptoms the person has been experiencing. The doctor may order X-rays, as well as lab tests. The X-rays may involve Barium X-rays of the colon and small intestine. A doctor may order a Colonoscopy or a Flexible Sigmoidoscopy. The doctor may take a small sample of tissue, called a, 'Biopsy,' in order to determine of the person has Crohn's disease or if it is another disease such as Cancer. The doctor may also order a Stool Analysis in order to look for signs of infection and blood in the person's stool.
Treatment of Crohn's Disease
Treatment of Crohn's disease is dependent on the symptoms the person is experiencing, as well as how bad the symptoms are.
Medications are the most common form of treatment for Crohn's disease. Persons who are experiencing mild symptoms of the disease may even be treated with over-the-counter medications in order to stop diarrhea. It is always important to speak with a doctor before taking over-the-counter medications because they may cause side-effects. Prescription medications may also be used to help control inflammation of the person's intestines, as well as to prevent Crohn's disease from causing other symptoms.
Prescription medications may also assist in the healing of damaged tissues; they may postpone the need for surgery as well.
For persons with Crohn's disease who have severe symptoms and for whom medications do not help, stronger treatments may be needed. Intravenous medications may be administered. Surgery to remove a portion of the person's intestine may be performed. Unfortunately, Crohn's disease often returns, even after such a surgery.
Coping with Crohn's Disease
Exercise, healthy foods, taking medications as ordered, and abstaining from smoking can help persons with Crohn's disease to feel better.
Crohn's disease makes it more difficult for a person's body to absorb nutrients from the food they eat, so a meal plan focusing on high-protein, high-calorie foods can help them to receive enough nutrients.
Support from family members and friends can help with the stress of this disease.
Counseling is a helpful option as well. A number of persons with inflammatory bowel diseases seek alternative treatments in order to improve their overall health.
While these forms of treatment have not been proven affective with Crohn's disease in particular, they may help persons with this disease to cope.
Alternative treatments may include consumption of supplements such as vitamins D and B12, and use of herbs like Aloe and Ginseng. Massage therapies have helped some persons with Crohn's disease.
- Twin studies find that if one has the disease there is a 55% chance the other will too.
- Crohn's disease begins most commonly in people in their teens and 20s, and people in their 50s through to their 70s.
- The percentage of people with Crohn's disease has been determined in Norway and the United States and is similar at 6 to 7.1:100,000. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America cites this number as approx 149:100,000; NIH cites 28 to 199 per 100,000.
- Crohn's disease is more common in northern countries, and with higher rates still in the northern areas of these countries. The incidence of Crohn's disease is thought to be similar in Europe but lower in Asia and Africa. It also has a higher incidence in Ashkenazi Jews and smokers.
- It is rarely diagnosed in early childhood. It usually affects females children more severely than males. However, only slightly more women than men have Crohn's disease. Parents, siblings or children of people with Crohn's disease are 3 to 20 times more likely to develop the disease.
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