Crohn’s disease: Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Crohn’s disease refers to a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that leads to inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract. This chronic disease can affect different areas of the digestive tract though the inflammation commonly occurs in your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine.

Crohn’s disease often begins gradually and become worse and worse over time.

It is estimated that more than half a million people in the United States have this disease. Furthermore, this number is believed to keep rising.

At present, there is no cure available for Crohn’s disease. But some treatments may help reduce its symptoms.


Symptoms

Depending on the location and severity of inflammation, signs or symptoms of Crohn’s disease may vary. Sometimes you are likely to have periods of remission when no symptoms show up.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping and pain in your abdomen
  • Weight loss

Other possible signs are:

  • Anemia
  • Eye redness or pain
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Joint pain or soreness
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Skin changes that involve red, tender bumps under the skin


Causes

Doctors still don’t know what exactly causes Crohn’s disease. Heredity and a malfunctioning immune system are suspected to be potential factors.

  • Heredity.

It seems that people whose family members have a history of Crohn’s disease have a higher chance of developing it. However, more researches are needed to be done to figure out their association.

  • Malfunctioning Immune system.

Experts also think immune system may play a role in causing Crohn’s disease. Bacteria in the digestive tract may cause your immune system to mistakenly attack your healthy cells, leading to Crohn’s disease.

Besides, certain factors may increase your chance of having Crohn’s disease, including

  • Smoking
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • A high-fat diet


Diagnosis

Since there is no one test to diagnose Crohn’s disease, your doctor makes a diagnosis by ruling out all the other possible causes for your symptoms.

Typically, a combination of tests will be ordered to help confirm the diagnosis. These tests involve:

Blood tests

  • Tests for anemia or infection
  • Fecal occult blood test

Procedures

  • Colonoscopy
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Capsule endoscopy
  • Balloon-assisted enteroscopy


Treatments

Because no cure is currently available, the treatments for Crohn’s disease aims to reduce symptoms and keep you in remission.

Main treatment options are medicines, bowel rest and surgery.

Medicines

Based on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe:

These medicines can help control inflammation. They often used to treat people who are newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and have mild symptoms.

Side effects of aminosalicylates include:

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Headaches
  3. Heartburn
  4. Nausea and vomiting
  5. Pain in your abdomen

Corticosteroids is helpful to reduce the activity of your immune system and decrease inflammation. This option is considered when you have moderate to severe symptoms.

Side effects of corticosteroids include:

  1. Acne
  2. Bone mass loss
  3. High blood glucose
  4. High blood pressure
  5. A higher chance of developing infections
  6. Mood swings
  7. Weight gain

You can reduce immune system activity with immunomodulators which take several weeks to 3 months to start working.

Side effects of immunomodulators include:

  1. A low white blood cell count, which can lead to higher chance of infection
  2. Feeling tired
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Pancreatitis
  • Cyclosporine

Due to the serious side effects of cyclosporine, you doctor may prescribe this medicine only if your condition is very severe.

  • Biologic therapies include anti-tumor necrosis factor-alpha therapies and anti-integrin therapies.

Biologic therapies can decrease inflammation in the intestines by neutralizing proteins made by the immune system. With its help, you can go into remission.

Bowel rest

Patients with severe Crohn’s disease may need to rest their bowel. During bowel rest, your doctor may:

  • ask you to drink a liquid that contains nutrients
  • give you a liquid that contains nutrients through a feeding tube inserted into your stomach or small intestine
  • give you intravenous (IV) nutrition through a special tube inserted into a vein in your arm

Surgery

Even if you have had medicines, you may still need surgery to treat the disease. Surgery can treat your complications and improve symptoms. Options include:

  • Small bowel resection
  • Subtotal colectomy
  • Proctocolectomy and ileostomy


Keywords: Crohn’s disease.


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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.