All About Crohn’s Disease

What is Crohn’s Diseases?

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which is a term used to describe disorders that involve chronic inflammation of your digestive tract.

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The large intestine (colon) is inflamed in ulcerative colitis, and this involves the inner lining of the colon. In Crohn’s Disease, the inflammation extends deeper into the intestinal wall. Crohn’s disease can also affect the small intestine (ileitis) or can involve both the small and large intestine (ileocolitis).

Causes of Crohn’s Disease

The exact cause of Crohn’s Disease isn’t known. It was originally thought that factors such as diet and stress could be the cause of this disease. However, physicians are now aware that these factors do not cause this disease but instead, play a role in worsening symptoms of the disease. One theory on the cause of Crohn’s Disease is that it is a result of having an immune system dysfunction where your system has an abnormal immune response when fighting a virus or bacterium and attacks the cells in your digestive tract.  It is also suspected that Crohn’s disease is caused by a variety of other factors including:

  • Environmental Factors
  • Genetics
  • Immune System Issues

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Bloody Stool
  • Delayed Growth or Sexual Development in Children
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Gallstones and/or Kidney Stones
  • Inflammation (bile ducts, eyes, joints, skin or liver)
  • Perianal Fistula (pain and/or drainage near the anus)
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Ulcers (anywhere from mouth to anus)
  • Weight Loss

Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease has numerous symptoms that unfortunately, are the same symptoms as a variety of other health issues. Due to this fact, there isn’t just one test that can be given to diagnose this disease. Being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease generally involves a sequence of testing involving exams, lab work, imaging studies and obtaining your medical history.

Some of the most effective procedures for diagnosing Crohn’s Disease is through having a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy done because it provides the most definitive information about the digestive tract. During a colonoscopy, a physician will explore and look inside your rectum and colon by using an instrument called a colonoscope. Throughout this exam, physicians will look for irritated or swollen tissues along with any signs of ulcers, polyps or cancer. During this time, doctors may also elect to conduct a biopsy where they remove a small sample of tissue that they can then, examine under a microscope. A sigmoidoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy except for it only examines the lowest section of the large intestine. Another method for diagnosing Crohn’s Disease is to perform a video capsule endoscopy where the patient swallows a small pill that holds a miniature camera. The pill or camera then travels through the patient’s small intestines while taking images of the patients intestinal lining.

Lab tests are useful in diagnosing Crohn’s Disease because they help your physician identify health issues correlated with the disease. Lab tests often involve testing for things such as the protein levels and sedimentation rates of your blood, mineral levels in your body, white and red blood cell counts as well as stool samples, which are used to check for blood and infectious microbes.

Imaging Studies are helpful because Crohn’s Disease may present itself anywhere along the gastrointestinal tract, which can be difficult to identify without the use of technology. To help physicians identify where the disease is and how severe it may be, the patient may be requested to receive a: barium or another type of X-ray, CT scan, colonoscopy or capsule endoscopy.  

These measures are taken in order to rule out additional health issues that may have similar symptoms and to determine the exact area of the digestive tract that is being affected so that a clear diagnosis can be made.  

Crohn’s Disease Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. The goal in treating Crohn’s disease is to reduce inflammation, control the symptoms and minimize the number of flare ups so the patient can live as comfortably as possible. The objective is to help patients live their life without limitations due to the disease. To achieve this goal, physicians often prescribe long-term medication treatment in order to obtain and sustain remission.