Crohn’s disease is classified as a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease primarily affects the intestines, but symptoms may also occur anywhere in the alimentary canal from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s disease can cause tunneling in the tissues of the digestive tract and burrow into surrounding organs. This disease can even affect spinal health.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The exact cause for Crohn’s disease isn’t known. Crohn’s disease is associated with an abnormal response of the body’s immune system. Usually, the immune system helps to protect the body; however, with Crohn’s disease, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign substances and normal body tissue. The outcome is that the overactive immune response causes chronic inflammation.
Individuals with Crohn’s disease have constant inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The disease may manifest in any part of the digestive tract. There may be healthy tissue patches among the diseased areas. Continued inflammation will cause the intestinal wall to become thick. Due to the thickening of tissues, the passageways become narrower, and blockages can occur.
Types of Crohn’s disease
There are 5 different types of Crohn’s disease. The types include:
Ileocolitis – Ileocolitis is the most widespread form of Crohn’s disease. It affects the lowest part of the small intestine as well as the large intestine.
Ileitis – This is the type of Crohn’s disease that affects the ileum. The ileum is the final portion of the small intestine.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease – Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation in the stomach as well as the small intestine. It is named for the parts of the anatomy that are affected by the disease – gastro refers to the stomach and duodenal refers to duodenum.
Jejunoileitis – Jejunoileitis is characterized by spotty patches of inflammation in the top half of the small intestine. This disease is named for the jejunum.
Crohn’s colitis – Crohn’s colitis only affects the large intestine.
Risks for Crohn’s disease
Any person’s environmental factors and genes can play a crucial role in the development of Crohn’s disease. The disease can arise at any age, although it generally occurs in people between the ages of 15 and 35 years of age.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease depend on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected. The symptoms may vary from light to severe.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
Abdominal cramps and pain
Fistulas (generally around the rectal area)
Loss of appetite
Pain when passing stool
Blood in stools
Unexpected weight loss
Diagnosis of Crohn’s disease
The medical professional can make a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease by doing a physical examination and conducting some diagnostic tests.
The tests done to confirm a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease include:
CT scan of the abdomen
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of the abdomen
Upper GI series
Crohn’s disease can cause varying results in the following tests:
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
Liver function tests
White blood count (WBC)
Treatment for Crohn’s disease
Treatment for Crohn’s disease includes medications, surgery, diet and nutrition.
Anti-diarrhea drugs, like Imodium, may be taken if the patient has bad diarrhea.
Aminosalicylates are a type of anti-inflammatory drug which helps to control mild to moderate inflammation.
Antibiotics can also be prescribed to prevent infection. There is a risk for infection if the patient has fistulas or abscesses.
Corticosteroids such as prednisone and methyl-prednisone are used to treat moderate to severe Crohn’s disease.
Immune modulators like 6-mercaptopurine or Azathioprine help to calm down the reactivity of the immune system. These drugs help to reduce the need for corticosteroids.
If medicines are not effective to treat the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, a bowel resection may be necessary to remove the damaged part of the intestine or to get rid of an abscess. A procedure called anastomosis is done to connect the remaining two ends of the bowel. Most patients with Crohn’s disease have to undergo bowel surgery. However, unlike ulcerative colitis, removing the diseased portion of the intestine doesn’t cure this condition.
Diet and Nutrition
No precise diet is required to relieve bowel inflammation in the treatment of Crohn’s disease. Yet, eating a healthy amount of protein, vitamin rich food and calories is essential to avoid starvation and weight loss. Some foods are better tolerated by some people than others. Each person will have to discover what foods irritate the condition and what foods relieve the symptoms.