Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. The major symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, weight loss, and even malnutrition from food malabsorption.
While there is no cure for Crohn’s, treatments are available that can help reduce the symptoms. People who have Crohn’s disease experience different levels of severity – the inflammation it causes can affect different portions of the digestive tract – so finding a functional treatment involves trial-and-error.
Once a treatment that works is found, the patient can live a very normal life. The goal is for the disease to go into remission.
Symptoms of Crohn’s
The various irritable bowel disorders, including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, share many common symptoms. The most common portion of the digestive tract that is affected by Crohn’s is the large intestine (colon) and the lowermost part of the small intestine, which is immediately adjacent to the colon.
Signs and symptoms can begin gradually or come on with no warning at all. People with Crohn’s can go for months or longer without any symptoms.
When an episode happens, the most common signs are:
- Severe diarrhea that may come on suddenly
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Sores in the mouth
- Pain or drainage from the anus usually caused by a fistula
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
There is no official cause yet known for Crohn’s, rather a collection of indicators that can contribute to its development. A weakened immune system, a virus, or bacteria may trigger the onset in people who are susceptible to this condition.
If a family member has Crohn’s or another type of inflammatory bowel disease, chances are higher that someone else in the family will also develop it.
Complications that Can Develop
The bowel wall can develop scar tissue and therefore become more narrow, which can block the emptying of the digestive tract and lead to disease and infection. The chronic inflammatory component can cause sores or ulcers to develop anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus and even the adjacent areas.
People with Crohn’s disease also have a greatly increased risk of colon cancer, so they should be screened sooner and more frequently than others. Certain medications used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease come with an elevated risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma and skin cancer, in addition to an increased risk of infections.
Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
The use of anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and nutritional changes are usually the first approaches of treatment for the disease. In times of flare-ups, doctors commonly use feeding tubes (enteral nutrition) or nutrients injected into a vein (parenteral nutrition) to give the bowel a chance to relax, thereby reducing inflammation.
If lifestyle changes don’t provide relief, then surgery may be recommended. Nearly 50% of all Crohn’s patients have at least one surgery during their lifetime to remove a portion of their digestive tract and reconnect the healthy portions.
Gastroenterologists in Cleveland
If you or someone you know suffers from Crohn’s disease or is having digestive issues, contact North Shore Gastroenterology.
Call us today at (440) 808-1212 or request an appointment online, and let us help you enjoy a normal lifestyle again.