Crohn’s disease, also called regional enteritis or ileitis, is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which is a lifelong condition that causes parts of the intestine (bowel) to swell up, specifically the small and large intestines.

It’s a chronic condition, which means it’s long-lasting and can appear and reappear at any time.

 

Causes snd Risk Factors for Crohn’s Disease

There are many theories about what causes Crohn’s disease, but the exact cause has not been proven and is currently unknown.

The most well-known theories and risk factors include:

  • Age – more likely to affect people before the age of 30
  • Genetics – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), along with other GI conditions, often runs in families. If you have an immediate or close family member with Crohn’s or another gastrointestinal condition, your risk increases of also having it.
  • Autoimmune Disease – when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue (an autoimmune disorder). Many people who are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease usually have abnormalities with their immune system.
  • Smoking regularly
  • A diet rich in fatty and refined food items

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Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis

No single test result is enough to diagnose Crohn’s disease.

For an accurate diagnosis, a gastroenterologist will initiate a series of tests, ask you relevant questions about your symptoms and examine you in detail.

If you have any family history of gastrointestinal problems, it’s recommended to share this with your doctor at your first consultation, because Crohn’s is often hereditary.

Tests used to diagnose Crohn’s disease include:

Blood Tests

Blood tests can help your gastroenterologist look for certain indicators of potential problems.

Stool Tests

A stool test can help a gastroenterologist detect blood in your GI tract.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a detailed examination of the inside of your large bowel, including your rectum.

This involves a thin, lighted flexible tube with a small camera attached to the end is inserted through your anus to look for ulcerations and inflammation.

Upper Gastrointestinal (GI) Series

An upper GI series requires you to drink a barium solution that shows up on X-rays.

An upper GI series can reveal places in the small intestine that are narrowed and also highlight ulcers and fistulas.

Endoscopy

A gastroenterologist may request an endoscopy to get a better image of the inside of your upper gastrointestinal tract. This can include your stomach, esophagus, and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).

 

Imaging Tests

Imaging tests like CT scans and an MRI allows a gastroenterologist to find more detail than an average X-ray.  Both tests allow seeing specific areas of your tissues and organs.

 

Antibody Tests

A gastroenterologist may order antibody tests to differentiate your disease from other conditions.

After diagnosing you, a GI will stage your disease as a way of assessing its severity. It’s important to find out your stage as this determines your tailored treatment plan.

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Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease can range from mild to severe , although it usually develops slowly and builds up, sometimes will come on suddenly.

There also might be periods when you have no signs and symptoms. The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease involve the digestive tract and can include:


Pain

Most commonly, the pain will be felt at the lower-right side of the abdomen. However, it varies between individuals.

Mouth Sores

Ulcers are quite commonly experienced from time to time.

Diarrhea

This can range from mild to severe. Heavy intestinal cramping also can contribute to runny stools.

Fatigue

Many people experience fever-like symptoms, usually due to inflammation or infection. It’s also common to have no energy and feel tired.

Reduced Appetite and Weight Loss

Abdominal pain and cramping can affect both your urge to eat and your ability to digest and absorb food properly.

Arthritis

Arthritis usually affects the larger joints and is most active when the bowel symptoms are present.

Anal Pain and Stool Blood

The most common problems include fissures (tears), ulcers, fistulas, bloody stools, and infected areas of skin. These may occur as a singular experience or together.

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Possible Treatments for Crohn’s Disease

Currently, Crohn’s disease doesn’t have a cure, there are a variety of treatment options available to decrease the discomfort of the condition. It can involve medication, treatment, and/or lifestyle changes.

The primary goals of treatment are:

  • To achieve the best possible control of the inflammation with the fewest adverse effects from medication
  • To permit life to be lived as normally as possible.

Medication

A combination of medication is usually required. Medicine used to treat Crohn’s disease can include:

  • Medications that reduce inflammation
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications that suppress the immune system
  • Antibody-based medications that disrupt the inflammation process
  • Iron
  • Calcium and vitamin supplements.

Surgery

Depending on how severe your symptoms are and your response to treatment, major surgery, called resection, may be needed to remove very inflamed or damaged portions of the small or large intestines.

 

Lifestyle Changes

  • Diet – A well-balanced and nutritious diet is essential for anyone with Crohn’s disease to prevent malnutrition and maintain good health. However, there is no specific Crohn’s disease diet that is recommended for all people. Many people find keeping a food journal to be an effective way to track flare-ups with foods that trigger your symptoms. Some general tips are to avoid problem foods such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods, along with limiting dairy products, fiber and avoiding high fat, fried or greasy foods. Some people also find that eating smaller meals instead of one or two large ones and drinking more water helps control their symptoms better.
  • Smoking – If you do smoke, it’s recommended to stop as this can contribute negatively to your digestive tract. Smoking also leads to more-severe diseases and a greater risk of having surgery.
  • Stress can worsen symptoms and may trigger mild to severe flare-ups. Its recommended managing stress levels through exercise and other relaxation techniques.  More info can be found here.

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Coping and Support

We understand that Crohn’s disease is challenging on all levels, and doesn’t just affect you physically, the emotional toll and stress are just as difficult.

Here are some things you can do to stay informed and get regular support from those who you trust and respect.

Keep Informed

One of the best ways to feel in control of your condition is to find out as much as you can about Crohn’s disease. Keep in mind that there are many negative views about every medical condition, which is why it’s so important to filter out sad or depressive news, media stories, etc for you not to become overwhelmed.

 

Join a Support Group

Support groups can provide valuable information about your condition from the same people who are experiencing exactly the same symptoms and daily pressures as you are. Many people find support groups reassuring and often come out feeling supported and with a new sense of “knowledge”.

 

Talk to a Therapist

Speaking with a mental health professional who’s familiar with medical diseases and difficulties can go a long way for effective recovery and mental health support.

 

Medical surveys

Future treatments are now one step closer. 

Contact us

Spoke Research Inc
Mediclinic Milnerton,
Suite 109
Racecourse Rd, Milnerton
Cape Town

0215518678

Mon – Thurs: 08:00-15:00
Fri: 08:00-12:00
Sat: Closed

info@spokeresearch.co.za

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