Gastro Health

Crohn's Disease

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Jagdish Singh

Published on Jun 14, 2019   -  5 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Crohn's disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract, which results in symptoms like severe diarrhea, stomach pain, and weight loss

Crohn's Disease

What Is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn’s disease, otherwise called ileitis or enteritis, causes inflammation of the digestive tract (anywhere from the mouth to the anus) and is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation of different parts of the digestive tract for different people, but the ileum (lower part of the small intestine) is the most commonly affected.

It is a painful and debilitating condition, which can also lead to life-threatening complications. This condition cannot be treated, but many therapies help manage the signs and symptoms and help people affected by this disease lead an almost normal life.

What Are the Types of Crohn’s Disease?

Based on the location, the six types of this disease are:

  1. Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease - affects the stomach and duodenum.

  2. Jejunoileitis - Affects the jejunum, which is the second portion of the intestine.

  3. Ileitis - Affects the ileum, which is the last part of the intestine.

  4. Ileocolitis - Affect the ileum and colon.

  5. Crohn’s Colitis - Affects only the colon.

  6. Perianal Disease - Causes fistula, deep infections, sores, and ulcers around the anus.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?

Depending on the severity of the disease, the signs and symptoms can vary from mild to debilitating.

Early Symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain.

  • Abdominal cramps.

  • Diarrhea.

  • Blood in stools.

  • Fever.

  • Fatigue.

  • Mouth sores.

  • Weight loss.

  • Loss of appetite.

  • Frequent urges to empty bowel.

  • Feeling of incomplete defecation.

Severe Symptoms:

What Are the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease Seen in Females?

In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, this disease can cause the following symptoms in females:

  • Irregular menstruation.

  • Iron deficiency.

  • Difficulty conceiving.

  • Pain during sex (dyspareunia).

What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

The exact cause of this disease is still not known, but some factors seem to affect the severity of the symptoms. Some of the factors that seem to play a role in causing this disease are:

  • The immune system.

  • Genetics.

  • Environmental factors.

What Are the Risk Factors for Crohn’s Disease?

Factors that increase the severity of this disease are:

  • Smoking.

  • People younger than 30 years.

  • Involvement of the rectum.

  • Duration of the disease.

  • Intestinal infections.

  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, and Naproxen.

  • Living in urban areas.

What Are the Possible Complications of Crohn’s Disease?

Some of the local complications are:

  • Bowel obstruction - Scar formation might narrow the intestinal passage, leading to obstruction to flow of digestive contents.

  • Ulcers - Open sores anywhere from the mouth to anus.

  • Fistulas - In severe cases, the ulcers can extend through the intestinal wall, leading to fistulas, which are connections between the skin or other organs and the intestines.

  • Anal fissure - A tear in the tissue that lines the anus.

  • Colon cancer - Inflammation of the intestine might lead to colon cancer.

  • Malnutrition - Inability to eat properly might lead to malnutrition.

  • Malabsorption - Can affect the ability of the small intestine to absorb nutrients from food.

Systemic complications include:

  • Arthritis.

  • Skin problems like erythema nodosum, skin tags, and pyoderma gangrenosum.

  • Bone loss.

  • Iron and vitamin B12 deficiency.

  • Eye problems like uveitis and scleritis.

  • Kidney problems like kidney stones and fistulas.

  • Liver problems.

  • Gallstones.

  • Pancreatitis.

  • Delayed puberty.

How to Diagnose Crohn’s Disease?

As there is no specific test to diagnose this condition, your doctor will try to eliminate all other conditions that cause similar symptoms with the help of the following tests:

  • Blood test - To look for anemia and inflammation.

  • Fecal occult blood test - To detect blood in the digestive tract.

  • Endoscopy - To diagnose any possible cause in the upper digestive tract.

  • Colonoscopy - To examine the large intestine.

  • CT or MRI scan.

  • Biopsy - The doctor might take a tissue sample during endoscopy or colonoscopy.

What Is the Treatment for Crohn’s Disease?

Currently, there is no cure for this disease. Treatment aims at reducing the inflammation that triggers all the signs and symptoms. Managing symptoms helps reduce the incidence of complications and recurrence. The treatment options include:

Medications:

  • Corticosteroids - Prednisone and Budesonide.

  • Aminosalicylates - Sulfasalazine.

  • Immunosuppressant drugs - Azathioprine, Mercaptopurine, Infliximab, Methotrexate, Natalizumab, and Ustekinumab.

  • Antibiotics - Metronidazole and Ciprofloaxacin.

  • Anti-diarrheal medicines - Psyllium powder, Methylcellulose, and Loperamide.

  • Painkillers - Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen.

  • Iron supplements.

  • Vitamin B12 injections.

  • Calcium supplements.

  • Vitamin D supplements.

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Avoid foods and drinks that aggravate your symptoms.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Manage stress.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Perform breathing and relaxation exercises.

Alternative Medicine:

  • Probiotics.

  • Herbal supplements.

  • Nutritional supplements.

  • Acupuncture.

  • Fish oil.

  • Prebiotics.

Surgery:

If the other treatment options do not help in relieving the symptoms, your doctor might recommend surgery. Surgery is done to close fistulas, drain abscesses, and to remove the damaged portion of the gastrointestinal tract.

What Food to Eat and Not to Eat with Crohn’s Disease?

Food to avoid:

  • Alcoholic beverages.

  • Caffeinated drinks.

  • Sugary beverages.

  • Whole grain bread.

  • Brown Rice.

  • Dairy products with added fibers.

  • Fatty food like coconut, nuts, and poppy seeds.

  • Raw fruits and fruit juice with pulps.

  • High-protein food items like fried eggs, beans, peas, etc.

  • Sweets.

  • Vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, greens, corns, onions, peppers, beets, and parsnips.

Foods to include:

  • Decaffeinated drinks.

  • Low-fiber bread.

  • White rice.

  • Dairy products if it does not worsen your symptoms.

  • Fats that can be included are ghee, butter, oils, and mayonnaise.

  • Peeled fruits like banana and pulp-free juices.

  • Proteins like fish, hard-boiled egg, soy products, and poultry.

  • Vegetables like asparagus, seedless vegetables, eggplant, potato, and pumpkin.

How Fatal Is Crohn’s Disease?

As such, Crohn’s disease is not fatal or life-threatening. But, it can lead to complications that can be fatal. Complications like severe infections and colorectal cancer can lead to death.

If your symptoms are severe even after taking medicines and implementing lifestyle changes, it is best to consult a gastroenterologist online through phone or video consultation.

Last reviewed at:
14 Jun 2019  -  5 min read

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