What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease in and of itself is not usually life-threatening, although it can cause serious or fatal complications, which include bowel obstruction, fistulas, anal fissures, and others.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes inflammation in the gut (the digestive tract) and belongs to a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can affect any part of the digestive tract that runs from the mouth to anus, but it generally affects the small intestine and initial part of the large intestine.
How serious is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease in and of itself is not usually life-threatening, although it can cause serious or fatal complications, which include the following:
- Bowel obstruction
- Fistulas (abnormal passages between a hollow or tubular organ and the body surface or between two hollow or tubular organs)
- Abscesses (pus-filled pocket of infection)
- Anal fissures (small tears in the anus)
- Ulcers or open sores in the mouth, intestine, or anus
- Inflammation around the joints, eyes, or skin
Appropriate treatment can augment the possibility of a good recovery.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown; however, an autoimmune reaction can incite Crohn’s disease. In an autoimmune reaction, the immune system may attack its healthy cells to cause inflammation of the tissues within the digestive tract.
Heredity can also play an important role in causing Crohn’s disease.
Stress and eating certain foods do not cause Crohn's disease; however, they can worsen the symptoms.
Who can get Crohn’s disease?
People associated with the following certain factors are at a high risk of Crohn’s disease:
- Family history
- Certain medications such as antibiotics, birth control pills, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- High-fat diet
- High-risk ethnic backgrounds such as the African-American and Caucasians
- Age between 15 and 35 years
- Environmental factors (pollution)
What are the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
The signs and symptoms vary from individual to individual. In patients with Crohn’s disease, there are times when symptoms worsen (flares) and times when the individual recuperates from the symptoms (remission). The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include the following:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Persistent diarrhea
- Urgent desire to defecate
- The feeling of incomplete bowel emptying
- Weight loss
- Other less common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are as follows:
- Rectal bleeding
- Eye redness or pain
- Joint pain or soreness
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Red, tender bumps under the skin
- Night sweats
- Rectal pain
What procedures and tests diagnose Crohn’s disease?
There are no specific tests or procedures to diagnose Crohn’s disease. The physician evaluates the symptoms and uses information from diagnostic testing to exclude other potential causes.
- The common diagnostic tests include:
- Blood tests
- X-rays of the upper and lower digestive tract
- Biopsy of the colon while performing endoscopy
- Imaging tests (computed tomography [CT] or magnetic resonance imaging [MRI])
What are the treatments for Crohn’s disease?
Various treatment options help to control the disease and help patients lead a full and rewarding life. Treatment options include
Medications suppress inflammation by reducing the activity of the immune system. They also help in subsiding the symptoms or complications. Mostly antidiarrheals, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or antibiotics are used.
Bowel rest involves restricting eating any food by mouth.
Surgery is useful in treating complications and reducing symptoms when other treatments are not useful.
Incorporating the following diet changes will help in reducing symptoms: