Crohn’s disease affects thousands of people in the country every year. This painful condition can be life-threatening if not treated in time. Knowing about the symptoms and diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, the treatment can go a long way in helping a person lead a normal life.
What Is Crohn’s disease?
This condition is categorized as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In this condition, the digestive tract gets inflamed leading to severe stomach pain, diarrhea, loss of weight, extreme tiredness, malnutrition, and other symptoms.
The inflammation is not only contained in the digestive tract but goes deep in the layers of tissue in the bowels. A person with the condition experiences severe pain and incapacitation. If not treated in time, this condition can develop into deadly complications.
The cause of Crohn’s disease is not known. An unhealthy diet and stress may worsen the condition, but doctors think a weakened immune system and hereditary factors have an important role to play in its occurrence. People with a family history of Crohn’s disease are at a greater risk of developing the condition, but this is not always the case.
Other risk factors may include age, ethnicity and lifestyle factors. While the condition can develop at any age, Crohn’s disease is diagnosed in most people before they turn 30 years old. Caucasian and people of Eastern European Jewish descent seem to be at a greater risk of developing the condition. However, it affects people of all ethnicities. Cigarette smoking, taking certain anti-inflammatory drugs, and environmental factors such as living in a developed country can also contribute to the occurrence of this condition.
Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease
For most people, stomach pain and diarrhea are common conditions that go away after a few days. However, if the abdominal pain is severe and frequent, Crohn’s disease is most likely the cause of the same.
For some people, the condition only affects the end part of the small intestine, also known as the ileum. For others, the condition is mostly seen in the colon which is a part of the large intestine in the body. The condition affects each person differently.
Crohn’s symptoms and signs can include severe diarrhea, extreme pain in the abdomen, frequent bowel movement, loss of weight and appetite, profuse sweating at night time, constipation, bleeding from the rectum, feeling of nausea, fatigue, fever, irregular menstrual cycles in women and continuous trips to the bathroom. Symptoms may range from mild to severe.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can develop into major complications without appropriate medical attention. Complications of Crohn’s disease can include fissures or tears near the anus especially during bowel movements, fistulas or tunnels that can develop from the intestine to the skin, bladder, or vagina, thickened intestine walls which makes it difficult for food and waste to pass out of the body, partial or complete blockage of the intestine, ulcers or sores in the mouth, intestines, or anus, malnutritional body due to lack of appetite and weight loss, and burning and swelling in the eyes, skin, or joints. If a person is experiencing these symptoms, they should immediately be rushed to the hospital.
Crohn’s disease is very often mistaken as another condition known as ulcerative colitis. The symptoms of Crohn’s disease and those of ulcerative colitis are very similar but they affect different areas of the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis mostly affects a person’s colon. However, in both these conditions, people may experience periods of severe symptoms or flares followed by a reduction in symptoms also known as remission. The doctor will test you to determine if you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Can Crohn’s disease be cured?
This condition cannot be cured. However, with early diagnosis and the right treatment plans, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can be reduced to a great extent and a person can live a normal life.
A number of blood tests and screening procedures are carried out to determine if a person has the condition and to find out the severity of the condition. Procedures such as a colonoscopy and endoscopy are carried out to determine the exact location of the condition. A small sample may be removed for analysis to confirm the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.
The goal of treatment is to reduce the pain and inflammation and prevent serious complications from arising. Anti-inflammatory medication and immunosuppressant medicines are given to provide relief from the inflammation. Antibiotics can help in the case of painful fistulas that develop. They can also decrease harmful bacteria in the intestine that cause infections.
Other medications include pain-relieving medications, fiber, iron and calcium supplements, and vitamin B12 injections. Crohn’s disease can lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12 that regulates normal nerve function and helps in the growth and development of the body. Doctors may also recommend a special diet. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.