Crohn”s Disease Overview

Crohn”s Disease Overview

700,000 Americans are diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract. Most often the inflammation is in the lower part of the small intestine and spreads deep through multiple layers of the intestinal wall. However, any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the rectum may be affected.

The cause of Crohn’s disease is still a mystery. One theory is that a virus or bacterium causes the immune system to attack the digestive tract. Your immune system then is fighting the foods you eat as if they were a foreign body which leads to chronic inflammation and can then progress to ulcerations and bowel injury.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Abdominal pain in the right side
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Frequent low-grade fever (102 degrees or lower)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite/ weight loss of 7 pounds or more with no known reason
  • Gas/Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting

Known Risk Factors:

  • A family history of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 20% of all people diagnosed with Crohn’s have a family member with the disease.
  • European or Jewish Descent
  • Live in an urban area of an industrialized nation.
  • Between the ages of 15-35. (This is the most commonly diagnosed age bracket)

Possible Risk Factors:

  • Smoking
  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • MMR Vaccine
  • Antibiotic Use
  • Zinc deficiency
  • Use of Accutane an acne medication

If you are diagnosed with Crohn’s you increase your risks for arthritis, migraines, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and colon cancer.

Tests for Diagnosis:

  • A blood test can determine if you are anemic and how high your white blood cell count is.
  • A stool sample will let you know if the intestine has bleeding or infection.
  • An upper GI series can check the status of your small intestine. You will drink barium, a chalky solution and x-rays are taken.
  • A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy will examine your colon health. A long lighted tube connected to a computer and monitor is inserted thru the anus which lets the doctor examine the large intestine. While in there your doctor may go ahead and take a biopsy.

The news is not all bad most Crohn’s patients lead normal lives, hold down jobs, and have children leading full productive lives. The other good news is that you will have periods where the disease is not active. Crohn’s cannot be cured but it is a condition that you can treat the symptoms when they do flare up.

Treatment Goals:

  • Control inflammation
  • Eliminate nutritional deficits
  • Relieve symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and vomiting.

Treatments:

  • Prescription Immunosuppressives – suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.
  • Prescription Antibiotics
  • Prescription Anti-inflammatories (often steroids)
  • Over-the-counter antidiarrheal drugs
  • Acetaminophen for pain relief.
  • Over-the-counter acid reducers (Pepcid, Tagament, Zantac)
  • Multivitamins
  • Surgery – Surgery may be an option to remove an obstruction or remove a diseased