Understanding Crohn’s disease can help you manage your symptoms and get the most from treatments. It can also help you prepare for a diagnosis and avoid complications.
Although the specific etiology of Crohn’s disease is unknown, experts believe an abnormal immune system reaction causes it. In addition, the combination of genetic and environmental factors may trigger the response.
Many Crohn’s disease patients find that practicing stress management and stress reduction practices daily is beneficial. Meditation, deep breathing, biofeedback, yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, and Crohn’s disease support group are among examples.
Crohn’s disease primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract. But it can also damage other body parts, including the skin and eyes. In addition, the condition is associated with an increased risk of kidney stones, rashes, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
In addition, some people with Crohn’s develop gallstones, a type of stone formed when bile salts build up in the gallbladder. Kidney stones, too, are common in people with Crohn’s, usually because oxalate or uric acid builds up in the urine.
Another complication of Crohn’s is a condition called hydronephrosis, which occurs when the ileum (the part of your small intestine that connects to the large intestine) swells and puts pressure on a tube called the ureter that carries urine from the kidney to your bladder. It can block the flow of urine and lead to infections in the bladder or ureter, causing symptoms like pain, cramping, and blood in your stools.
Treatment for Crohn’s includes medicines that help tame inflammation and keep your symptoms from worsening. For example, your doctor may prescribe a class of drugs, aminosalicylates, injected into the rectum. These help control symptoms in moderate to severe cases. Your doctor might also prescribe antibiotics to prevent intestinal infections that could lead to abscesses or fistulas.
Crohn’s disease can be diagnosed by a doctor who works with digestive health (gastroenterologist). Diagnosis is usually based on inflammation, other symptoms, and lab tests.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary depending on which part of the gastrointestinal tract is affected, but they generally include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. People with Crohn’s may have long periods of remission, followed by flare-ups.
The disease is more common in adults than in children and teenagers, but about 25% of people with the condition are younger than this. The disease may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract but most commonly occurs in the last section of the small intestine (ileum) and the large intestine (colon).
Some doctors believe that certain foods can trigger flare-ups of Crohn’s. While this is not proven, avoiding certain foods can help reduce symptoms.
Your doctor may also recommend imaging tests to get a better look at your digestive system from the outside. These include X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs.
A doctor may also use a long, thin tube called an endoscope to look inside your body. During this procedure, they can take tissue samples to check for problems like ulcers or bleeding.
Your doctor may do a stool test, which involves providing a sample of feces to be tested in the laboratory. This test can help detect blood in your gastrointestinal tract.
Crohn’s disease has no single cure, but treatment is designed to control symptoms and complications. It also aims to get the disease into remission and maintain it long-term.
In most cases, your doctor will start with medications to tame inflammation in the affected part of your intestines. These drugs may include 5-ASAs (aminosalicylates), which reduce tissue irritation.
Your doctor might also give you antibiotics to ward off infections in your digestive tract that can lead to abscesses or fistulas. They might also recommend loperamide, which treats diarrhea, and fiber supplements like psyllium powder (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel).
The treatments you take depend on your symptoms and how serious they are. For example, if your diarrhea is very bad, your doctor might advise you to go without food for several days to weeks.
You might need to receive a special diet by mouth or through a feeding tube (enteral nutrition) or nutrients delivered into a vein (parenteral nutrition). It improves your nutritional intake and allows your intestines to rest, reducing inflammation.
Medications to suppress the immune system are also commonly used for people with Crohn’s disease. They include azathioprine, mercaptopurine and methotrexate. If these don’t work, stronger medicines called biologics can be given to stop the inflammation in your intestines.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes inflammation in your digestive tract. It can lead to diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other symptoms.
Your doctor may order blood tests or other diagnostic procedures to help diagnose your condition. These include a stool sample and an x-ray of your colon. In addition, a colonoscopy (sigmoidoscopy) and a biopsy of your intestines are sometimes used to diagnose Crohn’s disease.
Treatment options for Crohn’s disease include medication, surgery, and other treatments. Some of these can relieve your symptoms and reduce your risk for complications, like short bowel syndrome.
The main goal of therapy is to keep your disease in remission. Your doctor will work with you to choose the best medications and dosages.
Lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of developing complications. For example, quitting smoking can lower your risk of flare-ups.
A healthy diet can make your symptoms better. Eating a well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can be especially helpful during flare-ups.
If your bowel disease is severe, you may need extra nutrients. Your doctor can prescribe iron supplements and other nutrients.
People who have Crohn’s disease are more likely to develop kidney stones. These stones form when salt, called oxalate, is absorbed into your body. These stones can cause damage to your kidneys and bladder. They also can cause an infection in your kidneys, known as nephrosis.