This chronic condition affects the digestive tract and can lead to debilitating episodes for patients who suffer from the disease. While it is often confused with ulcerative colitis, it affects a different area of the bowels, and utilizes a different treatment method for management.
What is Crohn’s Disease?
The most basic definition is that Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the bowel. While the exact causes are unknown, it is classified as an auto-immune disease, where the body attacks certain areas of the digestive tract, causing the continued inflammation. It is thought to be hereditary in nature, although it is also considered that some environmental factors may play a part in its expression and progression. This condition directly attacks the entirety of the bowel walls, and can lead to trouble in absorbing the necessary nutrients that the body requires to survive.
Symptoms for Crohn’s Disease
Although the symptoms can vary in different patients, this disease does impact the entire gastro-intestinal system. As a chronic disease, it is often the persistence of the symptoms that can mark it as Crohn’s rather than an intestinal upset. Some of the more common issues that patients with Crohn’s disease will experience include:
- Cramping in the abdomen
- Persistent pain
- Bleeding during bowel movements
- Urgent sensations to move the bowels
- Weight loss
While many of these symptoms can also be associated with other bowel diseases, the presence of these issues should indicate that a visit to a physician is necessary. This can lead to a more complete diagnosis.
Are there Tests for Crohn’s Disease?
Although there are no specific tests for Crohn’s disease, a doctor is able to render a diagnosis of the condition through a number of channels. This will often include the use of blood panels to rule out the presence of any other illness, and the use of imaging tests in order to determine what part of the digestive system is being affected. These will allow a physician to generate an observational diagnosis of the disease.
The Difference between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
Although symptoms for both diseases can be similar, the biggest difference is in the affected areas for each of the illnesses. While ulcerative colitis is mainly seen in the lower bowel regions, Crohn’s disease can stretch across the entirety of the gastro-intestinal tract. This includes all regions from the oral cavity to the rectum, although it is most commonly seen as inflammation at the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large bowel.
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
One of the most common treatments that is also a form of managing Crohn’s disease includes diet and nutritional support. This intervention can be highly effective, especially if it is utilized during the early stage of the disease. In many cases, individual food sensitivities can worsen flare-ups and inflammation, so avoiding these substances can lead to better management.
Specialty pharmacies also use certain pharmaceuticals and biologics to treat the disease. Although some therapies can generate side effects that may worsen the symptoms for a time, different combinations of medications that specifically target individual issues have been shown to moderate the disease. This may include basic anti-inflammatory drugs, but can also include corticosteroids and medicines which will reduce immune response.
Surgery may also be a consideration for patients with Crohn’s disease. The removal of the affected part of the digestive tract can often lessen symptoms and lead to better quality of life. In some cases, surgery may be called for due to other complications that have resulted from the disease, and these can include fistulas and blockages.
Prognosis for Crohn’s Disease
There is no actual cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment and management can afford patients a high quality of life. Although most patients will experience flare-ups from time to time, proper medication and diet can moderate the severity of the situation. Prognosis will often vary based on the patient, and can still include a long and productive life.
Is there a Connection between Crohn’s Disease and Arthritis?
While research on Crohn’s disease has not shown a definitive correlation between conditions, it is common for patients with Crohn’s to also exhibit painful or swollen joints. A general nursing diagnosis of people with the condition point to the same auto-immune function that is responsible for inflammation in the colon also being responsible for the inflammation in the joints.
It is generally not thought that the expression of arthritis is causative with Crohn’s disease, but that it is actually a symptom that may only be present in some patients. Generally, a history of Crohn’s disease in a family will point to other members developing the disease as well. This points to a genetic predisposition for auto-immune issues, and arthritis is frequently activated by the same mechanism.
Finding Information about Crohn’s Disease
There are a number of foundations for support, research, and education about Crohn’s disease. These will often include support groups and management advice for patients with the illness. Public health departments and clinical groups also provide resources for patients, ranging from referrals to specialists to recipes that may help reduce inflammation and flare-ups.
Non-profit groups and government organizations also provide information, through online services, print-outs, and community interventions. Along with physician care, this offers a strong network of support for patients who are managing their symptoms.
Other Concerns with Crohn’s Disease
Along with the actual symptoms of the illness, Crohn’s disease may also exhibit as secondary health issues that arise from the inflammation and the immune response. These can include:
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Low red blood counts
- Bowel blockage
Although these conditions are related to the presence of the illness, they are not actual symptoms. They should, however, be monitored and attended to, since they can result in greater health problems. Even during treatment and management phases, patients should have regular check-ups and report any abnormalities to their physician. This can allow for better welfare and quality of life through the progression of the chronic illness.