Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease that is caused by the inflammation of the digestive tract, which causes severe abdominal pains, diarrhea, even fatigue and weight loss or malnutrition. Close to a million Americans suffer from this disease.
The disease most often originates in the small intestine and the colon of the body. However, it can affect any portion of the gastrointestinal tract, right from the mouth to the anus. Its severity ranges from mild to debilitating (making your internally weak and infirm). The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can vary from individual to individual and can also change with time. Although less likely, but it canalso cause life-threatening conditions or complications.
Crohn’s disease is a bit tricky because even to-date, researchers have not been able to fully decode how or where it originates, how to best manage it, or how to cure it fully. Some more research is still required to understand the disease with all of its complexities, and to come up with a definitive cure.
The symptoms of this disease usually develop gradually and grow in intensity with time. Certain symptoms may also get worse with time. Some of the early signs of Crohn’s disease are:
- Cramps in the abdominal region
- Blood in the stool
- Unexplained Fatigue
- Loss of Appetite
- Weight Loss
- Improper bowel movements
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
Like we mentioned, it is still not quite clear what really causes the disease to originate in the first place. However, with medical research advancements over the last decades, the following factors have been identified which can influence the occurrence of Crohn’s Disease: The Immune System; The Genetics; and The environment in which you live.
About one fifth of the people who have Crohn’s disease are likely to have a parent, child, or sibling suffering with the same disease. There are certain other things too, which may have an effect the severity of your symptoms. They include factors like whether you smoke or not; what’s your age range; whether you rectum is involved or not; and the duration of time diagnosed with the disease.
Individuals suffering from Crohn’s disease are more prone to intestinal infections from viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi, because the disease can affect the immune system of the body, making such infections worse in people with inflammatory bowel disease. Yeast infections from Candida are also quite common in people with Crohn’s Disease.
Management of Crohn’s disease
Although a cure is not available for Crohn’s disease, but it can be managed using a variety of treatment options. Through certain ways & means, one can reduce the severity and/ or the frequency of the symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Dietary Changes
The food you eat doesn’t really cause Crohn’s disease, but it I possible that the same food may trigger disease flares. More often than not, physicians suggest visiting a registered dietician after the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease. The dietician will help you understand how your food intake habits might be affecting your symptoms. You can begin by maintaining a food diary. This diary will feature what all you ate and whether it made you feel normal or not. Such informationhelps the dieticians to lay out guidelines for you to follow. The idea of making some nutrition and dietary changes is to allow you to absorb more nutrients and in the right quantity, as well as keeping you away from certain food items that are causing trouble.
Some of the common dietary changes to manage Crohn’s disease are:
- Adjusting the fibre intake
- Limiting the intake of fat
- Limiting intake of dairy products
- Consuming more water
- Adding rich sources of vitamins & minerals to your diet
There are a lot of types of medication to manage Crohn’s disease. Over four classes of medication can be used to treat this disease. Some of the first-line treatment options can include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, while other advanced treatment options may include biologics (using the body’s own immune system to treat the disease). The kind of medication required for treatment depends upon individual to individual on the basis of a detailed examination by the physicians.
Some of the common medication options to manage Crohn’s disease are:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines or drugs
- Biologic therapies
Whennon-invasive medications or treatments and dietary or lifestyle changes don’t help you with improving your symptoms, surgical treatment may be advised. As a matter of fact, it is anticipated thatclose to 70% of people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease will be requiredto undergo a surgery at some point of time in their lives. Most surgical procedures would be aimed at repairing the damaged tissue, or managing the scar tissue, or treating the deep infections. Some surgeries may also require removing the damaged portions from your digestive tract and reconnecting the other healthier sections.
A single test result may not allow a physician to conclusively diagnose the Crohn’s disease. This is because the symptoms are generic and may have been caused by any other medical condition. Thus, your physician will essentially start by eliminating all other possible causes of the symptoms you are experiencing. Diagnosing Crohn’s disease is a process of elimination.
Several types of blood and organ functioning tests may be required to make a diagnosis:
- Blood tests – To check for indicators of potential conditions, such as anemiaor inflammation
- Stool Test – To detect the presence of any blood in the stool
- Endoscopy – Your physician may prescribe an endoscopy test to get an image of what’s inside your gastrointestinal tract
- Colonoscopy – required to examine the large bowel and look for possible damage
- Imaging tests – CT Scans or MRI Scans may also be required to give the physiciangreater detailsas compared to the average X-ray results. These tests allow the physicians to examine specific areas of organs and tissues in your body
Sometimes, the physiciansmay also resort to biopsyto have a closer look at your intestinal tract tissues.