This is the ultimate Crohn's Disease web site with all the resources
needed as a newly diagnosed patient. It is also a good pitstop for
those of you who, like me, have been diagnosed for a longer time.
As you can see, I have chosen to include information for relatives
and friends to Crohn's patients as I have experienced there isn't
much information availible online for this group.
Crohn's disease, also referred to as regional enteritis, is a condition that causes inflammation in the intestines. However, Crohn's disease can inflict any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Due to this fact a wide range of symptoms may be experienced. If you're concerned about this disease and searching for treatment, here's an in-depth look at some common questions and answers that may be helpful to you.
Am I Alone With This Disease?
Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Those who have IBD either have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Anyone can be affected regardless of gender. Typically, the condition afflicts those who are between the ages of 15 and 35. There are a few cases though where elderly and very young children suffer from the disease.
Why Do I Have This Condition?
If you suspect you have the condition, only a proper diagnosis will be able to answer this question. There are a number of theories regarding what causes the disease but as a whole researchers believe that it is due to genetic predisposition, immune system issues and/or environmental factors.
Oftentimes, the “defense” cells of the immune system fight and protect against detrimental microbes and other foreign intruders that have passed into your body. The thing is, a normal immune system doesn't attack all microbes or foreign matter. In the case of IBD, however, the immune system may attack even those microbes that assist in healthy digestion. The body's defense response eventually causes inflammation and then sores or ulcers.
The disease is also said to be possibly genetic. It's been observed that anyone who has a parent or sibling with IBD tend to have more chances of developing the condition themselves. Around 10 to 20 percent of those who have the condition have at least one other family member who has it, too. It's also been observed that a certain gene can become defective or mutated in a way that the body responds abnormally to microbes.
Finally, many things in the environment are said to trigger the disease. These include microbes, cigarette smoke, substances from things we consume, and other matter that are still unknown. Any of these can either trigger an immune response or directly affect the lining of the intestines.
How Do I Know If I Really Suffer From It?
You might suffer from any one or more of the typical symptoms of Crohn's disease. The indications include abdominal pain and cramping, diarrhea, sores on the lining of the intestine, loss of appetite, weight loss, and bloody stool. You may also have fever, constant tiredness, skin problems, arthritis, and eye inflammation. Slowed development may be seen in children with the condition.
Crohn's Disease Diagnosis
As mentioned earlier, only a proper diagnosis will be able to give you answers. There's not just one, universal way to diagnose for the disease. A physician will mainly rely on your physical examination, medical history, and results from lab tests including imaging and endoscopic tests.
What Can Make Things Worse?
There's no evidence indicating that stress is a direct cause of the disease, although sufferers sometimes feel raised levels of stress from having to live with a chronic condition. Some also have flare-ups when going through stressful events. Many report flare-ups due to the consumption of popcorn, which has high levels of insoluble fiber. While often tolerable in small amounts, a lot of it can lead to a flare-up since the fibers don't dissolve in the intestine. Fried food and common allergens like nuts have also been observed as triggers of flare-ups.
Smoking seems to make the condition worse, and so smokers are often advised to quit. Seasonal changes are a possible trigger based on contact with seasonal allergens. It's important to realize that IBD in general is a very individualized disease. You may not always have the same set of triggers with another IBD sufferer.
What If It's Left Untreated?
One of the most typical complications is malnutrition. The disease actually makes it hard for the body to take in vitamins, protein and calories. Chronic inflammation can lead to scarring and eventually the thickening of the intestinal walls. Ulcers, abscesses (pockets of infection), fistulas (tunnels that lead to another part of the body) and massive bleeding may also occur. If left untreated, other parts of the body may be affected by the severe effects of inflammation, including the joints, liver, skin and eyes. Fortunately, such complications can often be eased once intestinal inflammation is managed.
What Are The Treatments Available?
There are 4 modes of treatment for Crohn's disease, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, immune suppressants, antibiotics and symptom-relief medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs act to reduce the inflammation in the intestines that can lead to sores. Bceause the disease is triggered by an abnormal immune response, immune system suppressants are deemed effective. Antibiotics are often administered to lower infection and help recover abscesses and fistulas. For those suffering from a very severe case of Crohn's, symptom relief drugs may be advised.
It is possible to undergo surgery in extreme situations. Surgery may involve taking out diseased parts of the digestive tract. Or, it may simply involve draining abscesses and closing fistulas. In general, surgery is not recommended as a first mode of treatment and is only considered if all other treatments have failed.
Is There A Cure?
Currently, there's no cure for Crohn's disease. However, it can definitely be kept under control using one or a combination of the several treatments available today. Others are able to see positive results combining medications with natural supplements and therapy. Research is still ongoing, with the prospect of finding even better and a wider range of treatments.
What Is My Outlook With This Disease?
Many are able to live a full and enjoyable life despite their lifelong condition. Individuals with Crohn's disease have a comparatively normal life expectancy against the general population. The key is to keep the disease in remission. Some experience this remission for a very long time, from months to even years, through proper medication, supplementation, exercise and overall lifestyle changes.