Crohn's disease can be a painful nuisance to deal with, as the symptoms aren't fun, and the consequences can be dire in more extreme situations. However, it can be managed with some treatment from medical professionals.
What Is Crohn's Disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, "Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition."
Depending on the person, this inflammation can affect different areas of the digestive system. For some people, it could affect one area while for others, it could affect a separate area. It can spread throughout bowel tissue and can even be debilitating and/or life-threatening in more severe cases.
While there is no cure yet, with treatment, one can often manage the symptoms, and even sometimes it can be forced into remission.
What Causes Crohn's Disease?
Unfortunately, the specific cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. For awhile scientists thought the cause was rooted in dietary patterns and stress. However, it's has been proven that these only exacerbate the disease.
It's now believed that hereditary and immune system irregularities play a role in the development of Crohn's disease.
Some other risk factors can be associated with the development of Crohn's disease. Younger people are more likely to be diagnosed with Crohn's disease with most diagnoses occurring before age 30.
Smoking cigarettes can also increase the chance of developing this condition, and if you already have it, it can exacerbate the symptoms.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
The colon and the last part of the small intestine (ileum) are the most common areas to be affected by Crohn's disease while it's active. According to Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms while the disease is active include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Blood in your stool
- Mouth sores
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
In more severe cases, it's possible to experience inflammation in your skin, eyes, liver, joints, bile ducts, and/or delayed growth/development in children. If you experience abdominal pain, fevers, weight loss, or bouts of diarrhea – it's essential to pay a visit to your doctor.
Treatment for Crohn's Disease
The treatment of Crohn's disease mainly focuses on decreasing the inflammation that causes the symptoms. This is why medical professionals often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids or oral 5-aminosalicylates.
Corticosteroids don't work for everyone, and doctors will only prescribe this treatment when other forms of treatment have failed. Oral 5-aminosalicylates are not used as often to treat this condition anymore.
Immune system suppressors are also an option for treating Crohn's disease. These medicines reduce inflammation by targeting the immune system, which causes inflammation. For some patients, a combination of these drugs is the most effective means of treatment. In certain situations, antibiotics may also be used.
In more extreme situations, surgery may be recommended. Almost half of the people with Crohn's disease end up requiring surgery. Most surgeries consist of the removal of damaged section/s of the digestive tract. After these sections are removed, the healthy sections are then reconnected.
This fix is often only temporary on its own. To prevent the further spread of the disease, doctors will often prescribe medications to take after the surgery.
Lifestyle Changes That May Help With Crohn's Disease
Some lifestyle choices that one can try and incorporate into their daily routines that may help make sure your symptoms aren't exacerbated. Limiting your intake of dairy products, eating low-fat foods, and maybe even limiting your intake of raw fiber (for example, consider steaming or baking vegetables instead of eating them raw).
Dairy products and high-fat foods can be difficult to digest sometimes for individuals with living with this disease. This is why it's often encouraged to avoid these foods as much as possible. It's also recommended to avoid spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol as well. Small meals are easier to digest so you may want to consider having five or six small meals in a day instead of two to three larger ones.
Dealing with Crohn's Disease
It can be challenging to live with this condition, and it can be painful and even debilitating in more severe cases.
Making specific lifestyle changes can help minimize the severity of your symptoms as well. Throughout your treatment process, it's imperative to keep your doctor up to date with how you're feeling.
You should also inform them of any changes in your symptoms. Your doctor will be able to tell you what the best form of treatment for your condition is, and they'll be able to prescribe medication as needed.