Understanding Crohn's Disease

Nearly 3 million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes Crohn’s disease and colitis. Both conditions cause inflammation and damage in the gastrointestinal tract. 

If you have Crohn’s disease, you know it’s a lifelong condition that flares up and causes life-disrupting symptoms like abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fatigue, and persistent diarrhea.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, or have been living with it for a while, our team at Digestive Disorders Associates is available to help you manage. While Crohn’s disease can’t be cured, symptoms can be minimized, and sometimes remission can be achieved.

Having a good understanding of Crohn’s disease, and IBD in general, can help you live with the disease. Here’s what you should know.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the GI tract, anywhere from the mouth to the anus. Most commonly, it affects the end of the small bowel, called the ileum, and beginning of the colon. The inflammation digs deep and spreads into the deep layers of your bowel. Symptoms interfere with your quality of life and can sometimes cause life-threatening complications.

How do I know I have Crohn’s disease?

There’s not one single test for Crohn’s disease, and it’s often diagnosed by eliminating other causes for your symptoms. Symptoms vary from person to person and range from mild to severe.

If you have symptoms like diarrhea, fever, blood in your stool, abdominal cramping, mouth sores, reduced appetite, weight loss, and pain near your anus, come to our office. You need a diagnosis and treatment, whether that’s for Crohn’s or another bowel condition.

Other symptoms that may accompany Crohn’s disease include inflammation of the liver, skin, eyes, and joints, as well as iron deficiency anemia and delayed growth in children.

When is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

Anyone of any age can be diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but it’s most commonly found in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30.

Crohn’s disease seems to have a genetic component, so if you have a parent or sibling with the condition, you’re more likely to have it too.

Is there more than one type of Crohn’s disease?

Yes, there are several types of Crohn’s disease. You may suffer from:

Ileocolitis

This common form affects the small intestine and the large intestine. Pain usually occurs in the middle or lower right part of the abdomen, and you experience diarrhea and significant weight loss.

Ileitis

This type of Crohn’s affects only the ileum. You suffer the same symptoms as other forms of Crohn’s disease, but may also develop abscesses in the right lower portion of the abdomen.

Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease

When your stomach and the beginning of the small intestine are inflamed, you’re diagnosed with this form. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and loss of appetite.

Jejunoileitis

Patchy areas of inflammation appear in the upper half of the small intestine, causing diarrhea, abscesses, and abdominal pain after meals.

Crohn’s colitis

When your disease affects only the colon, you have Crohn’s colitis. In addition to diarrhea, you may have rectal bleeding, ulcers around the anus, skin lesions, and joint pain.

If Crohn’s disease can’t be cured, what can be done?

It turns out a lot can be done. At Digestive Disorders Associates, we offer medications that can ease inflammation. These include steroids and a class of drugs known as oral aminosalicylates. If abscesses develop, antibiotics may be offered, too.

Immune system suppressors may also help, as these drugs reduce inflammation and calm down your immune system, which is responsible for inflammation. The doctors may also recommend biologics, which target inflammatory proteins made by your immune system.

No single drug helps every person with Crohn’s disease. Most people need a combination of therapies to find some relief.

We can also help you with nutrition therapy. While there isn’t one “Crohn’s disease diet,” a low-fiber diet is sometimes recommended to ease symptoms and prevent potential bowel blockages. In more severe cases, a feeding tube may be used to provide you with optimal nutrition while allowing your digestive tract to rest.

In severe cases of Crohn’s disease, you may need surgery to remove damaged portions of your digestive tract and reconnect the healthy sections. Surgery can also close fistulas and drain abscesses.

A diagnosis of Crohn’s disease may be scary, so get the help you need from a skilled team of gastroenterologists. Trust our team at Digestive Disorders Associates if you have symptoms that suggest Crohn’s disease or another inflammatory bowel condition. Call the office in Annapolis, Maryland, or use the online tool to schedule your appointment.

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