Everything You Need to Know About Crohn’s Disease

Everything You Need to Know About Crohn’s Disease

Staff Writer |Jun 11, 2020

What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by mild or chronic inflammation of parts of the digestive tract. It is estimated that 780,000 U.S. citizens have Crohn’s disease. These statistics cause concern because researchers have yet to identify the causes of the disease, or a cure.

Although Crohn's disease is not life-threatening, it can cause fatal complications.

Causes and Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

There are common ecological, heredity, and immune system factors found amid patients with IBD.

People living in developed nations, urban, and northern climates are more likely to have IBD compared with the people in underdeveloped, rural, and Southern climates.

Research shows that Crohn's disease is common in families with a history of IBD. Up to 20% of patients with IBD have a parent, child, or sibling with Crohn's or an IBD type of disease.

A healthy person's immune system pushes white blood into the gastrointestinal tract to launch an attack on bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. During the attack, the immune system spares the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract. Inflammation occur in periods when the immune system is on the defense.

However, with IBD patients, the immune system does not differentiate between harmful and beneficial bacteria. Further, the inflammation that occurs during the immune response does not subside. It becomes chronic and causes ulcers and the intestinal walls thicken.

The most common symptoms of Crohn's disease include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Frequent diarrhea

Smoking, poor nutrition, and stress increase the severity of Crohn’s symptoms.

Strictures

Because of frequent inflammation, scar tissues that form in the intestinal wall cause the intestines to become narrow and consequently form strictures. Repeated inflammation and scarring of the small intestines may cause the scars to rupture.

Ulcers

The main characteristic of Crohn's disease is an inflamed intestinal lining. The inflammation causes changes to the intestinal lining, the mucosa, and the thickness of the intestinal walls, which leads to ulcers. Inflamed stomach, mouth or intestinal walls make eating and feeding very hard for the patient.

Fistulas and Anal Fissures

Fistulas and fissures are among the severe symptoms of Crohn's disease. Fistulas are connections or holes between an organ and the intestines. At the same time, fissures are painful tears in the anal tissues, which can expose the patient to other infections or lead to fistulas.

How is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?

Doctors diagnose Crohn's through a process of elimination. A doctor will use several tests to diagnose and rule out likely causes of your symptoms. These tests range from stool tests to look for blood in your gut, colonoscopy, imaging tests like MRIs and CT scans, biopsy, or endoscopy.

By looking at the gut inside out, the doctor can then rule out other causes of symptoms and confirm Crohn's disease.

How is Crohn's Disease Treated?

There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but doctors can manage the disease through various ways such as administering antibiotics, steroids, immunosuppressant drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Doctors may also take other surgical measures depending on the severity symptoms, the extent of flare-ups, and the damage left in the intestines.

These measures include:

  • Abscess drainage
  • Colostomy or ileostomy
  • Bowel resection (removal of some bowel sections with fistulas)
  • Reconstructive surgery

To reduce flares and mitigate the severity of Crohn's doctors advise a change in diet. It's essential that you make an appointment with a registered dietitian capable of advising on the best foods to eat and foods to avoid.

It is also vital to keep a food diary and take note of your trigger foods or any information likely to be useful during follow up doctor appointments.

You should also be sure to take note of any prescription or over the counter medications you ingest. A diary helps the doctor trace the cause of a flare. For instance, aspirin in medications causes fire in the gut for people with gastro-intestinal issues.

As a start, increase your water intake and limit excessive fats and dairy in your diet. Look at the spices you use to cook. Chances are if your intestines are inflamed, some spices will make the pain more intense.

Talk to your doctor or dietitian regarding which supplements are best for you. Having an inflamed gut means absorbing fewer nutrients, hence the weight loss. It's essential to have alternative sources of nutrients to ensure to keep up with the body's needs.

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