What is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that usually affects the intestines, but may occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, the condition is linked to a problem with the body’s immune system response. With Crohn’s disease the immune system can’t tell the difference between normal body tissue and foreign substances. The result is an overactive immune response that leads to chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease may involve the small intestine, the large intestine, the rectum or the mouth. It rarely affects the esophagus and stomach. Immune effects may also act on the skin, eyes and liver.
What are the risk factors with Crohn’s disease?
Family history, smoking and environmental factors are attributed to developing Crohn’s disease. A person’s genes and environmental factors seem to play a role in the development of Crohn’s disease.
What are the symptoms for Crohn’s disease?
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Pain with passing stool
- Weight loss
- Fistulas usually around the rectal area
- Mouth ulcers
- Rectal bleeding
- Skin lumps or sores
- Swollen gums
What tests are performed to diagnose for Crohn’s disease?
Usually during a physical examination abdominal pain, skin rash, swollen joints or mouth ulcers are revealed. Tests include:
- Capsule endoscopy
- CT scan or MRI
- Upper GI series and small bowel x-rays
- Stool studies
- Barium enema
- Liver function tests
- White blood cell count
- Serologic blood tests
- C-reactive protein
How is Crohn’s disease treated?
Non-prescription medications may be used to help control mild symptoms such as, Loperamide (Imodium) to stop the diarrhea, fiber supplements or laxatives to help with constipation and aspirin for the pain.
For more moderate symptoms prescription medications may be prescribed such as, Corticosteroids (prednisone), azathioprine, antibiotics and biologic therapy (Remicade).
If prescribed medications do not work surgery may be necessary. During surgery the diseased part of the intestine is removed although some Crohn’s patients may need surgery to remove part of the small and large intestines.
Diet does not play a role in causing the inflammation. However, some dietary restrictions may be recommended to help in certain circumstances such as superimposed lactose intolerance.