What is Crohn’s Disease? Who is at Risk? How is Crohn’s Disease Treated?
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory process which primarily affects the intestinal tract. It can appear anywhere along the intestinal tract from the mouth to the anus, but is found mostly at the end of the small intestine or the large intestine. Crohn’s is a chronic condition which may persist at various times over a lifetime. Long remissions are possible, but are no guarantee that the condition will not reappear. This reoccurring pattern is unpredictable. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are both considered inflammatory bowel diseases.
Who is at risk?
Although any age group may be affected, the majority of patients are adults between 16 and 40 years old. It affects both men and women equally and it can run in families. About 20 percent of people with Crohn’s have a close relative with the disease or a related disease. Further, a northern climate and living in a large city seem to lead to more cases of Crohn’s disease, which could indicate environmental factors. Cigarette smoking is potentially an important controllable risk factor.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The cause is currently unknown although current research points to a possible immunologic (the body’s defense system) or bacterial cause. This disease is not contagious. It can be diagnosed by means of an x-ray of the small intestine. Stress and diet once thought to be possible causes are instead possible aggravators.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary depending on the location of the disease. Common symptoms include, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, weight loss, and bloating. Patients may experience some, none or all of these symptoms. Other symptoms may include rectal bleeding, fatigue, anemia and skin problems.
Can Crohn’s disease be prevented?
With heredity and/or a weakness in the immune system as possible primary causes, there is currently nothing in the literature to indicate a way to prevent Crohn’s, such as inoculation or lifestyle changes as having any affect on prevention.
How can Crohn’s disease be treated?
Crohn’s disease is treated by various levels of drug treatment depending on the severity of the case. Starting at a mild case, some recommend fish oil. This is also recommended when side effects of other medications are too strong. Next, for mild and moderate cases are oral medications called aminosalicylates, which help relieve inflammation and help with remission. The more serious cases are treated with corticosteroids such as Prednisone. Surgery is ultimately recommended in a majority (as many as three quarters) of cases.
It is important as part of the regime to be sure to supplement with certain nutrients. These include B12, folic acid, Vitamin D, iron, magnesium and potassium. All of these important nutrients are commonly lacking in Crohn’s sufferers. Finally, Crohn’s symptoms can be improved by a proper diet and exercise program. Since cases vary in its location in the body and its severity, it is important to discuss all these issues with your colon and rectal specialist.