Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease or IBD that usually affects your large or small intestine lining. When it strikes, it spreads deep into the tissue and can cause ulcerations and damage. This medical condition impedes your body’s ability to digest food properly and can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, rectal bleeding, and malnutrition. Suppose you have symptoms that could be consistent with Crohn’s disease or have already been diagnosed. In that case, you should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a physician for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan and to exclude a more severe or urgent condition.
Crohn’s disease can attack anywhere within your digestive tract, from your mouth to your anus.
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Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease affects different intestinal spots in different people. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain;
- Blood in your stool;
- Loss of appetite;
- Ulcers, even in your mouth;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Diarrhea, sometimes repeatedly.
Less common symptoms include blocked bowels, fever, fatigue, skin problems, inflamed liver, and arthritis. If you have Crohn’s disease, cigarette smoking, infections, or hormonal changes can instigate the disease.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
Although the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, stress and diet are not the culprits, as previously believed. The two most likely causes are an improperly functioning immune system or heredity. Both of these are still theories at this point.
You are more likely to get Crohn’s disease if you fall into one of these categories:
- Not yet 30 years old
- Descended from Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews
- A family member has it
- Cigarette smoker
- Live in a northern climate
- Live in a city or urban area
Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease
Our specialists use several methods to diagnose your problem, including performing a physical exam, reviewing your medical history, and ordering a colonoscopy. Biopsies will be taken during your procedure if there are areas of inflammation or ulceration concerning Crohn’s disease. Since Crohn’s disease can look like other illnesses, multiple tests often are needed to form an accurate diagnosis. Some other tests include:
- Biopsy tissue sample
- Blood tests
- Small bowel capsule
- Stool sample analysis
- Various other modalities
Broadly speaking, Crohn’s Disease can be characterized as the following:
- Inflammatory Crohn’s Disease in which there is inflammation of the intestine with diarrhea, sometimes bloody;
- Structuring Crohn’s Disease, in which there is scarring and fibrosis of the intestine leading to obstruction with crampy abdominal pain; and
- Fistulizing Crohn’s abnormal channels or tracts form between adjacent bowel loops or even between the bowel and the skin. Often, the three types co-exist to some extent.
Treating Crohn’s Disease
There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease. Medical treatment —anti-inflammatory medications (5ASA products), antibiotics, corticosteroids, immune system suppressors, and biologic therapies — can control your symptoms and limit any complications. Sometimes, drugs result in long-term remission of the disease. Many people living with Crohn’s disease can return to their everyday lives.
When medical therapy is not effective, surgery is an option if the damage to your intestines is localized. We can surgically remove the affected area, but this does not guarantee that the disease won’t appear again in a different location within your intestines. Finally, if you have Crohn’s disease, you should have more frequent screenings for colon cancer as there is an increased risk of colorectal cancer. You should discuss your screening regimen with your gastroenterologist.
As some of NYC’s best-in-class gastroenterologists, our doctors provide highly personalized and comprehensive care. For more information about Crohn’s Disease or to schedule a consultation with one of our GI doctors, please contact our NYC offices.