Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. It is one of the most common conditions among inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Crohn’s disease mainly involves the small and large intestines but can affect the digestive system anywhere from the mouth to the anus.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can mirror those of other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. So, it’s important to see a physician for proper evaluation and diagnosis.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
When Crohn’s disease is present in the body, Crohn’s can fluctuate between periods of activity and inactivity (remission).
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are dependent on the location or type of the disease as well as the severity of the inflammation. There are five different types of Crohn’s disease:
- Ileocolitis – Most common type of Crohn’s; affects the small intestine (ileum) and large intestine
- Iletitis – Affects the ileum only
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease – Affects the stomach and beginning/top of the small intestine (the duodenum)
- Jejunoileitis – Affects the upper half of the small intestine (jejunum)
- Crohn’s (granulomatous) colitis – Affects the colon only
Some of the more common symptoms of Crohn’s include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Weight loss
- Bloody stools
Other related but less common symptoms can include poor appetite; night sweats; rectal pain and/or bleeding; inflammation of the joints, spine, eyes, liver; and reddish, tender skin nodules.
Although the cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, researchers believe it is caused by a combination of factors including genetics, the environment, an overactive immune system or infection by certain strains of bacteria.
It affects both men and women equally and tends to be more common in relatives of patients with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Diet does not cause the disease; however, diet can trigger flare-ups and worsen symptoms.
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is chronic and requires life-long treatment. The goal is to decrease the inflammation in the intestines and prevent flare-ups.
Symptoms can be controlled through several methods, including nutrition, supplements and dietary changes, prescription medication, bowel rest and surgery. Medications commonly used to treat Crohn’s include antibiotics, aminosalicylates (5-ASA compounds), corticosteroids, immune modifiers (immunomodulators) and biologic medications for suppressing inflammation of the immune system.
If left untreated, Crohn’s can spread and cause additional complications, including bowel obstruction, abdominal abscesses, ulcers, fistulas, or even colon cancer.
How to Diagnose Crohn’s Disease
Your doctor will talk with you about your medical and family history, as well as perform a physical exam. Various levels of testing may be necessary to fully diagnosis Crohn’s disease.
These tests might include blood tests, a barium X-ray, colonoscopy, CAT or CT scan, and/or video capsule endoscopy (VCE). Video capsule endoscopy is a minimally invasive exploratory procedure where a miniature video camera is used to view the small intestine and lining.
Surgical Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Even with conservative treatments and medication available, some patients may need surgery to treat the complications and symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease. The surgical treatments performed by physicians at Wichita Surgical Specialists include but are not limited to:
- Small bowel resection
- Fistula repair surgery
After a full diagnosis, your surgeon will discuss a recommended treatment plan for your specific condition with you.