What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is chronic inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, most commonly affecting the end of the small intestine (the ileum) where it joins the beginning of the colon.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The exact cause is unknown. But we know that it is an autoimmune condition. When the immune system is working normally, it kills germs and bad cells that may turn into cancer. Sometimes, instead of killing just the bad cells, the immune system starts attacking healthy cells which is called “auto immune response”. When this happens, this causes inflammation that can lead to ulcers and bleeding. If you have family history of Crohn’s disease, you are at a higher risk for Crohn’s disease.
How common is Crohn’s disease?
In 2015, Crohn’s disease affected about 800,000 Americans. In comparison, ulcerative colitis affects 1-2 million people in the US.
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
Diarrhea, abdominal pain, anal pain, feeling tired, weight loss, fever, joint pains, skin rash, etc.
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
Colonoscopy is one of the tests performed to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Sometimes Dr Kethu may order x-rays or a capsule endoscopy to diagnose Crohn’s disease.
Is there anything I can do on my own that’ll help my symptoms?
- Quit smoking, if you smoke.
- Avoid medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, etc.
- Cut down the foods that may trigger your symptoms particularly excessive fiber.
How is Crohn’s disease treated?
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease. There are several treatment options available to control the disease. These may include short course of steroids, anti- inflammatory medications, “immunomodulators” which act to “dial down” the immune system response. If the disease is severe, Dr. Kethu sometimes uses medications called biologic therapies in the form of shots or as an intravenous infusion.
What are the complications of the Crohn’s disease?
- Stricture or narrowing of the intestine caused by scarring that can lead to intestinal blockage
- Abscess, a collection of pus
- Fistula- inflammation can cause ulcers to form on the inside wall of the intestine and these ulcers can extend to the entire thickness of the bowel and form a fistula
- Perforated bowel-long-standing inflammation of the intestine may weaken the wall and sometimes this can lead to a hole in the bowel
- Malabsorption, malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin deficiencies
- Crohn’s disease sometimes may affect the organs outside the gut including eyes, joints, skin, mouth, etc.