Crohns disease, also referred to as Irritable Bowel Disease, is inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract that can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, malnutrition due to malabsorption, fatigue and weight loss. Left untreated, Crohns inflammation can worsen and spread to deeper layers of the bowel causing severe pain and sometimes life threatening complications.
An exact cause of Crohns is not known, however, the condition sometimes runs in families (hereditary) and in those with an overactive immune system. Stress and certain diets can also cause an increase in symptoms, but are not thought to cause Crohns disease.
Symptoms of Crohns vary depending on the area of bowel affected and severity of the disease. Diarrhea is the most common symptom and can be accompanied by abdominal pain and cramping. This can affect appetite and your ability to properly absorb nutrients in food leading to weight loss. Fever and fatigue can also occur related to the inflammation and/or infection occurring within the bowel. Some individuals experience blood in their stool and inflammation in other areas of the body including the eyes, skin, joints and even mouth sores.
Diagnosing Crohns Disease is generally done through multiple methods. Your healthcare provider will take a detailed health history and ask you about symptoms you experience. Lab testing may be performed to check for infection or anemia, CT of the abdomen to obtain a view of your bowel and/or endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopy or small bowel capsule to view and take biopsies of your bowel.
Treatment of Crohns Disease is dependent upon severity of the disease and your body’s response to treatment. Common treatments prescribed include oral anti-inflammatory medication including corticosteroids. These medications help calm the inflammation in your bowel and reduce symptoms. Some individuals require further treatment with anti-immune medications that help suppress your body’s inflammation response and manage symptoms. The goal of treatment is to achieve remission (no signs of disease) and limit further damage to your bowel. Severe cases of Crohns that do not respond to treatment may require more significant intervention including surgical removal of damaged bowel.