The bowels are an essential part of the human digestive system. Generally, the small intestines, large intestines form the bowels. They assist in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food that we consume. Eventually, the unwanted waste is expelled at the end of the bowels. As we eat daily, we put our bowels to work.
Without proper bowel function, you may experience diarrhea, poor digestion, pain, vomiting, and weight loss. However, several health issues cause these symptoms, including Crohn's disease. As such, it's challenging to get a diagnosis because the symptoms are similar to other health problems.
If you've been experiencing digestive issues for a long time, our team is here to assist. We've broken down the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment of Crohn's disease to help you decide if you should schedule an appointment for a thorough checkup.
What Is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease belongs to a group of diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Crohn's disease is chronic, which means that there's no cure. However, there are treatment options to manage the condition and prevent complications. Crohn's disease affects both men and women. Data shows that approximately 3 million American adults have reported being diagnosed with an IBD, either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
What Are The Symptoms of Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease symptoms can be mild to severe and mainly increase in intensity as the illness progresses. Sometimes, the disease may go into remission, which reduces the symptoms. However, the symptoms come back during a flare-up. Common symptoms during the active periods of the disease include:
- Stomach pain
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Joint pain
- Mouth sores
- Weight loss
Crohn's Disease Complications
As the illness progresses, the following complications may arise.
- Abscesses: An abscess is a pocket full of pus and abscess that occurs in the inflamed areas.
- Anal fissures: Anal fissures are minor cuts and bruises in the anus that cause swelling and itching.
- Fistulas: Fistulas are abnormal channels or tunnels between different organs in your body. They occur when the inflammation in your intestines goes through the walls into other organs.
- General Inflammation: You may experience inflammation in your skin, eyes, and joints.
- Intestinal obstruction: Crohn's disease causes thickening of the intestinal walls, narrowing the passageways, leading to a bowel blockage in your intestines. The blockage affects the movement of food and stool in your tract.
- Malnutrition: Digestion and absorption of nutrients doesn't occur healthily, causing malnutrition.
- Ulcers: Inflammation in your digestive tract may cause open sores, known as ulcers, to develop in your intestines, mouth, and anus.
- Colon Cancer: Patients with Crohn's disease are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
What Causes Crohn's Disease?
There is no known cause for Crohn's disease. However, research suggests that the following factors influence the occurrence of Crohn's disease.
- Genetic predispositions increase the probability of getting Crohn's disease. If your direct parent or sibling has Crohn's disease or an IBD, you're also likely to develop the disease. Statistics show that 1.5- 28 percent of people with IBD have a relative with IBD.
- Autoimmune disorder: The body may develop an abnormal immune response which causes it to attack itself.
- Smoking may trigger Crohn's disease.
- NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, antibiotics, and birth control pills increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease.
- Diet: Crohn's is associated with high animal protein, milk proteins, and unhealthy fatty acids consumption.
How Is Crohn's Disease Diagnosed?
A series of tests are required to diagnose you with Crohn's disease. Besides tests, your doctor will examine your health history, family history, and your lifestyle.
- Checking for tenderness in your abdominal region
- Checking for bloating
- A physician may draw your blood and send it for testing to check for red blood cells and white blood cells. If your red blood cells are lower than usual, it suggests anemia. If your white blood cells are lower than expected, it indicates an infection in your body.
- Stool test: The doctor will test your stool to rule out other diseases.
- Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a procedure where a doctor uses an endoscope (a long tube with a light and camera on one end) to look inside your intestines and check for Crohn's disease. You'll be issued with instructions to prepare your bowels for inspection and aftercare.
- Upper GI Series: In this procedure, the doctor uses barium and x-rays to look at your gastrointestinal tract. You'll be asked to drink the barium to improve the visibility of your tract before taking the x-ray.
- CT Scan: Your doctor may order a CT scan to check for Crohn's disease.
How Do You Treat Crohn's Disease?
Treatment for Crohn's disease manages symptoms puts the condition in remission. Once the abnormal inflammation is controlled, healing can progress, and symptoms can decrease.
- Aminosalicylates: Work to reduce inflammation
- Corticosteroids: Keep the immune system in check to maintain the inflammatory response
- Immunomodulators: Suppressing the body's inflammatory immune response
- Biologic therapies: The use of living organisms to control inflammation
- Surgeries: Surgery may become necessary when medical treatments no longer work effectively
Is It Possible To Prevent Crohn's Disease Flare-ups?
Modifying your lifestyle helps prevent flare-ups. It's also advisable to keep a food diary to note your body's reaction after consuming food and beverages.
- Dietary Changes: A low-salt, low-fat and low-fiber diet helps. Also, avoid spicy and carbonated drinks.
- Consume nutritional supplements.
- Avoid lactose if you're lactose intolerant
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid antibiotics where possible
- Keep your stress under control
- Avoid alcohol
What Is The Difference Between Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis?
The significant difference between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease is the affected area. Ulcerative colitis usually affects the inner lining of the large intestines (colon). The inflammation also appears continually along the intestine.
However, Crohn's disease affects any part of the GI tract, including the mouth. The condition can also affect all linings on the bowel and appear in patches along the GI tract. An early diagnosis can help you seek treatment and learn how to manage the symptoms of the disease.
Finding The Best GI Care in Charlotte, NC
There's no need to live with chronic pain and abdominal discomfort. Schedule your next appointment with our team for a diagnosis.