What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of chronic irritable bowel disease (IBD). This condition is caused by an overreaction of the immune system, resulting in inflammation of the digestive tract, specifically the small and large intestines. Inflammation can also involve different parts of the digestive tract in different people. Additionally, inflammation can affect areas outside of the intestine, including the eyes, skin and joints.
The symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe and can change over time. Symptoms may also be progressive, meaning that they can worsen with time. Common signs of active Crohn’s disease may include:
- Abdominal pain.
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Bloody stools.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Mouth sores.
Crohn’s disease commonly appears in people in their late teens, 20s, or early 30s. However, it can occur at any age and is common in both men and women.
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How is Crohn’s Disease Diagnosed?
While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not known, it is believed that many different factors play a role in its development. These include a trigger to the immune system such as a virus or bacterium, hereditary and genetics and environmental factors.
If you are experiencing the symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease, your doctor will recommend you undergo some testing, which may include blood tests, stool tests, a colonoscopy, a CT scar, an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy or an upper gastrointestinal (GI) exam.
Crohn’s Disease Treatment Options
There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, though there are treatment options to help manage symptoms or even achieve remission (periods of time with no/fewer symptoms). The treatment option that is right for you will depend on the severity of your symptoms, your health history, your age and your preference. Treatment options may consist of:
Antibiotics can be prescribed to help prevent or treat infections.
These steroid medications can help to ease inflammation in the body, and may include prednisone or budesonide. They are not recommended for long-term use, as they may cause unwanted side effects.
Aminosalicylates, also known as 5-ASAS are anti-inflammatory drugs that contain 5-aminosalicylic acid. They are primarily used to treat ulcerative colitis (UC), another form of IBD, but may also be effective in some cases of Crohn’s disease. Examples include sulfasalazine, mesalamine and balsalazide.
Biologic therapies modify the immune system to stop it from causing ongoing inflammation. Examples include adalimumab (Humira), infliximab (Remicade), and vedolizumab (Entyvio) among many more.
These drugs work by suppressing the immune system to reduce inflammation. Examples may include azathioprine (Imuran®) and cyclosporine.
For individuals who do not respond to diet and lifestyle changes, drug therapy, or other treatments, surgery may be an effective option. During surgery, the damaged portion of the digestive tract will be removed. Surgery can also be performed to close fistulas or drain abscesses. However, surgery does not cure Crohn’s disease, and symptoms have a chance of recurring over time.
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At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Crohn’s Disease or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!
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