Crohn’s disease is one of two main forms of diseases of the GI tract named inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other form, called ulcerative colitis, affects the large intestine, which includes the colon and the rectum—the lower end of the large intestine, leading to the anus.
With Crohn’s disease, chronic—or long lasting—inflammation may cause scar tissue to form in the lining of the intestine. When scar tissue builds up, the passage can become narrow, causing food and stool to move through the GI tract more slowly—which can lead to pain, cramps, and diarrhea. Crohn’s disease most often begins gradually and can become worse over time. Most people have periods of remission—times when symptoms disappear—that can last for weeks or years.
Both men and women can get Crohn’s disease, and it can run in families. People with Crohn’s disease may have a blood relative with the disease or another type of IBD. Crohn’s disease most commonly starts between the ages of 13 and 30.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes Crohn’s disease. Experts think the following factors may play a role in causing Crohn’s disease:
- Autoimmune reaction: One cause of Crohn’s disease may be an autoimmune reaction—when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body. Experts think bacteria in your digestive tract can mistakenly trigger your immune system. This immune system response causes inflammation, leading to symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Genes: Crohn’s disease sometimes runs in families. Research has shown that if you have a parent or sibling with Crohn’s disease, you may be more likely to develop the disease. Experts continue to study the link between genes and Crohn’s disease.
Some studies suggest that other factors may increase your chance of developing Crohn’s disease:
- Smoking may double your chance of developing Crohn’s disease
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen, antibiotics, and birth-control pills may slightly increase the chance of developing Crohn’s disease.
- A high-fat diet may also slightly increase your chance of getting Crohn’s disease.
Stress and eating certain foods do not cause Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease symptoms can be different for each person.
THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF CROHN’S DISEASE ARE
- abdominal pain—often in the lower right area of the abdomen
- weight loss
- bleeding in the rectum, which can be seen in a person’s underwear, in the toilet, or in a bowel movement; rectal bleeding can be serious and may not stop without medical help
OTHER SYMPTOMS INCLUDE:
- eye redness or pain
- feeling tired
- joint pain or soreness
- nausea or loss of appetite
- skin changes that involve red, tender bumps under the skin
Your symptoms may vary depending on the location and severity of your inflammation.
Some research suggests that stress, including the stress of living with Crohn’s disease, can make symptoms worse. Also, some people may find that certain foods can trigger or worsen their symptoms.
A doctor will perform a physical exam and various tests to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Common test include
- Blood Test – The doctor may order blood tests, which involve drawing blood at a health care provider’s office or commercial facility and sending the sample to a lab for analysis. Blood tests can show a high white blood cell count, a sign of chronic inflammation.
- Stool Sample – A stool test is commonly used to rule out other causes of GI diseases, such as infections. The doctor will give you a container for catching and storing the stool. A stool sample can also be used to check if you have bleeding or inflammation.
- Colonoscopy – Colonoscopy is the most commonly used test to specifically diagnose Crohn’s disease. This test is used to look inside your rectum, entire colon, and ileum.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy – This test is used to look inside the rectum and lower colon.
- CT Scans
TREATMENT FOR CROHN’S DISEASE DEPENDS ON
- where the disease is located in the GI tract
- what problems you already have from the disease
- what past treatments you have had for the disease
THE GOALS OF TREATMENT ARE TO
- decrease the inflammation
- relieve symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding
- correct nutritional problems
TREATMENT MAY INCLUDE
- eating, diet, and nutrition