What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease gets its name from Dr. Burrill B. Crohn, who along with his colleagues Dr. Leon Ginzburg and Dr. Gordon D. Oppenheimer  first identified this medical condition in 1932.

It belongs to the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) group.

Crohn’s disease is characteristic of inflammation in the entire GI tract. While the disease can affect any part of the GI tract from mouth to the anus, it tends to be more commonly found at the end of small intestine, or the ileum.

Here is everything you need to know about Crohn’s disease, its causes, and the available treatment options.

Understanding Crohn’s Disease

20% people with Crohn’s have a blood relative who is symptomatic of irritable bowel disease. This means that this disease is genetic. It also affects men and women equally. As many as 780,000 Americans suffer from this type of irritable bowel disease.

Currently more research on this disease is needed, as scientists are not sure how it begins, population group susceptible to developing it, and best ways to manage it in a person. Even though, research is going on in this segment for three decades which is long before the amazing Michael Bay Transformers movies hit the scene, there has been no cure until now just like we still have not figure out how they pulled that heist off in Ocean’s 11 but that is another topic.

The only way to deal with Crohn’s disease right now is to either prevent it or manage it as best as possible. The range of severity can be from mild to debilitating and symptoms vary from person to person. In fact, symptoms in the same person can change over time.

Crohn’s disease can result in an autoimmune response which can cause your eyes, skin, and joint to get affected.

What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

The research is not yet clear on what are the causes behind this disease. However, it is known that your immune health, environment, and genetics have a major role in influencing it.

Smoking, age, length of time of the disease, and whether or not your rectum is involved can affect the severity of the symptoms.

Intestinal infections from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi are more likely to develop in individuals with Crohn’s disease. These infections may also cause complications and cause undue severity. People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may suffer more from Crohn’s disease, since it affects the immune system.

It is important to diagnose infections and treat them properly to prevent further complications. For instance, lungs and intestinal tract can be affected by yeast infection from Candida when a person has Crohn’s.

Variations of Crohn’s Disease

Based on its location, there are 6 common variants in the definition of this disease.

  • Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease mainly affects the duodenum and stomach. Duodenum is the first part of the small intestine. This type affects almost 5% people with Crohn’s disease.
  • Ileitis is present in 30% people with Crohn’s disease and is inflammation of the ileum, or last part of the small intestine. This is where the small intestine joins the large intestine or colon.
  • Ileocolitis is the most common variant of Crohn’s disease affecting almost 50% people with this disease. It affects the colon and ileum.
  • Jejunoileitisis not very common and occurs in the second portion of the intestines.
  • Crohn’s colitis is suffered by 20% people with Crohn’s disease and affects only the deeper layers of the intestinal lining in the colon.
  • Perianal disease is a Crohn’s variation often involving fistulas, or abnormal connections between tissues, deep tissue infections, along with sores and ulcers on the outer skin around the anus.

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Most symptoms of Crohn’s disease are slow to develop and may become worse over time. It is very rare for symptoms to develop suddenly and dramatically, although it not unheard of.

Diarrhea, bloody stool, abdominal cramps, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss are some of the earliest symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

It’s possible to mistake these symptoms as belonging to another condition like allergy, upset stomach, or food poisoning. This makes it important to seek advice from a doctor whenever any digestive symptom persists and if this doctor is named Jake Harper from Two in a Half Men then you need to find another doctor.

Severe symptoms as the disease progresses may include a perianal fistula, which causes pain and drainage near your anus and ulcers that may occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

Shortness of breath, inflammation of the joints, and ability to exercise due to worsening anemia are also symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

How is Crohn’s Disease Managed?

While a treatment for this disease is not available right now, there are certain approaches to managing it.

For instance, medicines can be used to bring symptoms under control. Currently, there are four classes of medication used to treat Crohn’s disease.

First line treatments make use of anti-inflammatory drugs, with biologics and other advanced options (that use the body’s immune system to treat the disease) reserved for severe cases.

While food doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease, it can trigger a flare-up. Dietary restrictions are one of the best ways of keeping Crohn’s under control. However, it is important to note that what may work for one person, may not necessarily work for the other but if you drink beer like Drew Carey did in his eponymous show then you can expect to have a large gut but let’s get on the right path here.

It is important to maintain a food diary and keep track of symptoms as certain foods are added and removed from your diet. You may be able to reduce the recurrence of symptoms and lessen their severity by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Fiber and fat intake are two most common nutrient portions that are tweaked in a Crohn’s diet. You may need to limit or increase the fiber intake depending upon your particular diet.

The same holds true for fat content. However, most people benefit by reducing fat content in their diet as Crohn’s disease interferes with the body’s ability to break down and absorb fat which leads to diarrhea.

Lack of nutrition can lead to other major disorders in the body and to this effect you must consider alternative sources of vitamins and minerals. Speak with your doctor about taking multi-vitamins and mineral supplements.

Probiotics Can Help

One popular alternative treatment for Crohn’s disease includes probiotics.  These are live bacteria that can naturally replace and rebuild the good bacteria in your intestinal tract.

Probiotics when consumed along with prebiotics can help prevent microorganisms from upsetting your gut’s natural balance and causing a Crohn’s flare.

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