Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus but most commonly occurs in the small intestine and the colon. It can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrheoa, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition.
The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue. Crohn’s disease can be both painful and debilitating, and sometimes may lead to life-threatening complications.
Researchers aren’t sure how it begins, who is most likely to develop it, however there are therapies that can greatly reduce its signs and symptoms and even bring about long-term solutions.
While the exact cause is unknown, Crohn’s disease seems to be due to a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition. However, certain things increases your risk for suffering from the disease.
Risk factors for Crohn’s disease may include:
- Age. Crohn’s disease can affect anyone, but it is likely to develop when you are young. Mostly diagnosed before 30 years old.
- Family history. You’re at higher risk if you have a close relative, who suffered the disease.
- Cigarette smoking. Smoking also leads to Crohn’s disease and a greater risk of having surgery. If you smoke, it’s important to stop.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen sodium (Aleve), diclofenac sodium (Voltaren) and others. While they do not cause the disease, they can lead to inflammation of the bowel that makes the disease worse.
- Certain lifestyle. This is due to factors such as; high fat diet or refined foods.
Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease
In most cases, Crohn’s disease either affects only the last segment of the small intestine (ileum) or the colon (part of the large intestine). Most at times, symptoms usually develop gradually, but sometimes occurs suddenly without warning. Although it’s possible, it’s rare for symptoms to develop suddenly and dramatically.
The initial symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Hematuria – blood in stool
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
People with severe Crohn’s disease also may experience:
- Inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
- Perianal fistula, which causes pain and drainage near your anus
- Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
- Delayed growth or sexual development, in children
Test and diagnosis
- To begin with, Blood tests for anaemia and inflammation.
- Additionally, Stool test to detect blood in stool.
- Moreover, Endoscopy to get a better image of the inside of your upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Furthermore, Colonoscopy to examine the large bowel.
- Last but not the least, Imaging tests like CT scans and MRI scans give more detail than an average X-ray. Both tests allow your doctor to see specific areas of your tissues and organs.
- Finally, tissue sample or biopsy, during an endoscopy or colonoscopy for a closer look at your intestinal tract tissue.
A cure isn’t available for Crohn’s disease, but it can be manageable. A variety of treatment options may be able to lessen the severity and frequency of your symptoms.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Dietary changes
- Pain relievers
- Iron supplements
- Vitamin B-12 shots
- Calcium and vitamin D supplements
Crohn’s disease may lead to one or more of the following complications:
- Bowel obstruction
- Anal fissure
- Colon cancer
Lifestyle and home remedies
Changes in your diet and lifestyle may help control your symptoms and lengthen the time between flare-ups. These includes:
Limit dairy products
Many people with inflammatory bowel disease that have problems such as diarrheoa and abdominal pain improve by limiting or eliminating dairy products.
Eat low-fat foods.
If you have Crohn’s disease of the small intestine, you may not be able to digest or absorb fat normally. Instead, fat passes through your intestine, making your diarrheoa worse.
Avoid other problem foods.
These includes; fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, spicy foods, alcohol, and caffeine may make your signs and symptoms worse.
Eat small meals.
You may find you feel better eating five or six small meals a day rather than two or three larger ones.
Drink plenty of liquids.
Water is best. Alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine stimulate your intestines and can make diarrheoa worse, while carbonated drinks frequently produce gas.
Consider taking multivitamins.
Because Crohn’s disease can interfere with your ability to absorb nutrients, multivitamin and mineral supplements are often helpful.
Smoking increases your risk of developing Crohn’s disease, and once you have it, smoking can make it worse. People with Crohn’s disease who smoke are more likely to have relapses and need medications and repeat surgeries. Quitting smoking can improve the overall health of your digestive tract, as well as provide many other health benefits.