Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can be both painful and debilitating. It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can then lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition.
Serious complications can arise from Crohn’s disease, but it is uncommon to die specifically from the disease or its complications.
While some patients may require surgery, many patients can effectively manage the disease through medication and other therapies. Although it is a serious condition, Crohn’s patients can control the disease and lead full and rewarding lives.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is likely a result of both genetic and environmental factors. Specific genes, or mutations in genes, that cause issues with the immune system can play a role in developing Crohn’s disease. Also, if you have a family member with IBD, you have a 15 to 30 percent chance of developing Crohn’s disease. Other factors, such as smoking, lack of sleep, Vitamin D deficiency, and early exposure to antibiotics, are also thought to put one at higher risk.
Crohn’s disease is most often diagnosed in adolescents and adults, ages 15 to 35; where you live also appears to affect development of Crohn’s disease with higher rates in developed vs. undeveloped countries; urban cities and towns, rather than rural areas; and northern climates vs. southern climates.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease, which means it requires long-term management. Patients may experience it in cycles: periods of active symptoms, known as flares, followed by periods with no symptoms, known as remission.
What triggers Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s symptoms may appear following a variety of triggers, all of which are different from person to person. Some of the most common ones include:
- Medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and certain antibiotics
- Seasonal changes, such as exposure to allergens or respiratory infections
- Missing or skipping prescribed medication
Where does Crohn’s disease start?
Crohn’s disease can affect any part of your GI tract and involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people. It can affect a continuous part or multiple segments; for some, it’s confined to the colon in the large intestine.
There are five different types of Crohn’s disease, each of which affects a different part of your small or large intestine and impacts the symptoms and complications you might experience.
While it is located in the GI tract, Crohn’s disease can affect your overall health and lead to more serious medical issues and complications, which is why it is so important to get an early diagnosis.
What does a Crohn’s flare up feel like?
While active symptoms, or flare-ups, can vary from person to person and range from mild to severe, there are some common symptoms:
|• Persistent diarrhea|
• Bleeding in your stool
• Abdominal cramps and pain
|• Mouth sores|
• Reduced appetite and weight loss
• Pain or drainage near or around the anus
Other related signs and symptoms include:
|• Inflammation of skin, eyes, and joints||• Inflammation of the liver|
|• Kidney stones||• Night sweats|
|• Anemia/iron deficiency||• Loss of appetite/weight loss|
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
While there is no single test to diagnose Crohn’s disease, a board-certified gastroenterologist will likely use a combination of tests and a thorough evaluation of your symptoms to help confirm a diagnosis. Among the diagnostic tools are blood tests to check for anemia; stool studies to test for hidden blood or other organisms; and procedures such as a colonoscopy, CT scan, MRI, endoscopy, or enteroscopy.
Can Crohn’s disease be cured?
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but a combination of medication, diet and nutrition, and surgical interventions as needed, can allow patients to manage the disease.
Recognizing the signs of Crohn’s and getting treatment right away is key. If you are experiencing symptoms or have a family history of Crohn’s or inflammatory bowel disease, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist. Contact us today for more information.