Crohn’s Disease – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment
Crohn’s disease is one of the two types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD); the other type is Ulcerative Colitis. Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition in which any part of the digestive tract, starting from mouth to the anus, gets inflamed and swollen while deep sores called ulcers develop in the tissues lining that underlying part. The disease affects different parts of gastrointestinal tract (GI) in different people, but it mostly occurs in the last part of small intestine and the large intestine (colon). The disease can become mild or less painful for some patients while it can even lead to life-threatening complications for others, but early diagnosis and proper treatment plan can help to avoid these severe complications.
Here, we briefly explain the basics of Crohn’s disease which gives you a broader understanding of different aspects of the condition:
What are the symptoms of the disease?
The signs and symptoms of the disease develop gradually; they are mild initially and become severe as the condition progresses. Sometimes, the symptoms appear suddenly and sometimes they may also disappear for a certain period of time which also called as remission. The earliest symptoms include:
- Intensive intestinal cramping
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in stool
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Perianal disease (anal fistula may develop)
The disease progresses as the initial symptoms persistently becoming worse with the passage of time. If you experience any of these symptoms or following severe symptoms then immediately consult the doctor.
- Feeling faint
- Fast and weak pulse
- Severe belly pain
- High fever and shaking chills
- Frequent vomiting
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blood in the stool
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The exact cause of the disease is still not known, but there are certain factors that can play a vital role in the development of the disease. These include:
- Malfunctioning immune system: When the immune system fights off any invading virus or bacteria then an abnormal immune response causing the system to attack cells in the lining of the parts of digestive tract.
- Heredity: The disease is most common in people who have close family members (parents or siblings) with the disease.
What increases the risk of developing the disease?
The factors that increase the risk of developing the condition include:
- Young people under the age of 30
- Family history of disease (especially a parent or sibling have it)
- Cigarette smoking
- People having Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
How it is diagnosed?
The doctor begins the diagnosis of the disease by checking and eliminating the other possible causes of the signs and symptoms. Secondly, the doctor performs various tests and procedures because there is no single test or procedure that allows diagnosing the disease. The various tests and procedures used to diagnose the disease include:
- Blood tests are conducted to check for anemia and infection.
- Fecal occult blood test is used to find out blood and infection hidden in your stool sample.
- Endoscopy procedure is used to examine the inside of upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Colonoscopy procedure is used to examine the inside of the colon.
- During Biopsy, a sample of tissue can be taken while performing endoscopy and colonoscopy to diagnose
- the disease or any other condition.
- Barium X-rays of small intestine and colon.
- Imaging tests such as CT scan and MRI allows the doctor to see specific areas of tissues and organs in more detail.
Once the doctor has completed these tests and procedures and ruled out the other possible causes for your symptoms then they may decide the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.
How the disease can be treated?
Currently, there is no cure available for the disease but various treatment options including medications, dietary changes and surgery can be used to lessen the severity and frequency of the symptoms. These treatment options vary from patient to patient depending on the type and severity of symptoms. These options help the doctors to reduce the inflammation in the underlying tissues that triggers signs and symptoms and to avoid further complications. It may also lead to achieve the long-term remission of the disease. Let’s see how the different treatment options help the patients to manage the disease:
In the first step of the treatment, the doctor advises anti-inflammatory drugs to patients to treat mild symptoms of the disease and they control inflammation in the affected area. Immune system suppressors are also advised by the doctors as they not only reduce inflammation but specifically target the abnormal response of your immune system. Antibiotics are also considered for those patients who have perianal symptoms of the disease which includes anal abscesses and fistulas. Along with all these types of medications, some over-the-counter medications are also suggested by physicians to relieve the symptoms.
When the medications fail to control the symptoms then the doctor recommends a nutritional therapy to relive the symptoms. There are two methods of this therapy: Enteral Nutrition and Parenteral Nutrition. Enteral Nutrition involves a special diet which is given to the patient via a feeding tube and Parenteral Nutrition involves nutrients that are injected into the vein of the patient. These methods improve your overall nutrition and allow the bowel to rest which can reduce inflammation for short-term period. Along with these methods, the doctor also recommends the patient to have a low-residue or low-fiber diet which reduces the size and number of the stools. It also helps to reduce the risk of blockage of the intestine due to inflamed and narrowed lining.
If medications, nutritional therapy and lifestyle changes didn’t help to relieve the patient from symptoms then the doctor recommends surgery as the necessary option. During the surgical procedure, the doctor removes a damaged portion of the digestive tract and then reconnects the healthy portions along with closing the fistulas and draining the abscesses.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease then talk to your doctor about these treatment options so that you can relieve yourself with the severity of the symptoms.
Choose GI Endoscopy Practice physicians in NJ:
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of Crohn’s disease then please consult the physicians at GI Endoscopy Practice in NJ. The team of doctors specializes in helping patients with severe symptoms who didn’t respond well to their treatments in the past. The physicians have expertise in treating a wide array of different gastrointestinal tract diseases and problems, giving you the care that you truly need.