Crohn’s disease, also called crohn’s syndrome, regional ileitis, and regional enteritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes inflammation in any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from mouth to the anus. This inflammation causes bothersome and uncomfortable symptoms and can create serious damage to the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms caused by this inflammatory condition include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, malnutrition and even weight loss. It can be managed but not cured completely. People with this disease can be able to function normally with proper treatment.
The signs and symptoms of Crohn’s syndrome may be different from one individual to another, but the commonly occurring symptoms that are related to the inflammation of GI tract includes rectal bleeding, persistent diarrhea, constipation which often leads to bowel obstruction, urgent need for bowel movement, sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation, and abdominal cramps and pain.
There are also certain general symptoms, which includes loss of appetite and weight loss, fever, night sweats, fatigue, loss of normal menstrual cycle, delayed growth and sexual development in children, eye inflammation, arthritis, skin problems, and inflammation of the liver or bile ducts.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s syndrome affects men and women equally and can occur at any age, but it is more prevalent between the age group of 15 and 35. Though the exact cause is not yet fully understood, experts suspect several factors such as diet, stress, heredity, and immune system to play an important role in the development of this disease. Doctors also believe that diet and stress can only trigger or aggravate existing syndrome but not cause them. Some environmental factors are also believed to be associated with this inflammatory condition, since the disease is more prevalent in westernized countries like UK and USA but not in poor countries like Africa.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The most common test to diagnose Crohn’s syndrome is colonoscopy. But, before performing a colonoscopy, the physician may rule out any possibility of other diseases by checking out the signs and symptoms associated with the patient. Other tests conducted by doctors to diagnose Crohn’s include blood test, fecal occult blood test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, capsule endoscopy, small bowel imaging, and barium enema.
Crohn’s disease cannot be cured, but the treatment procedures mainly aim to minimize and control the symptoms associated with it. It should also be noted that, a treatment that works for one individual may not work for another.
Treating it may involve the use of medications and in some cases, surgery is also required. Around 60 to 70% of the individuals suffering from this disease may require surgery to get relief from its symptoms and damage any repair caused to the GI tract.
Drug treatment for may involve the use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as sulfasalazine, Mesalamine, and corticosteroids. Immune system suppressor drugs may also be used in the treatment, which treats inflammation by targeting the immune system of the body that causes it. However, these drugs should be used with caution, as they carry a small risk of developing cancer in patients using them. Other drugs used in the treatment of may include laxatives, anti-diarrheal, pain killers, iron supplements, and vitamin and calcium supplements.
For patients, who do not get any relief from lifestyle modification and drug treatment, surgery is the only option. Surgery may involve the removal of that part of the digestive system which is damaged, and are then reconnected to healthy sections. Strictureplasty is another procedure performed in Crohn’s cases which involves widening of the intestines that has become too narrow.
Surgery too, is a temporary solution for patients because its symptoms may recur and soon the patient may require a second procedure. However, to prevent recurrence, it is best to continue drug treatment even after surgical procedure is done successfully.