Crohn’s disease is one of the chronic and severe forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Often it is also termed as regional enteritis or ileitis. A flare-up of the condition causes inflammation and irritation of the digestive system — especially the small intestine and large intestine. Diarrheoa and stomach cramps are common symptoms of Crohn’s disease. It’s common that the disease flares up from time to time.
Crohn’s disease was named in the memory of gastroenterologist Dr. Burrill Crohn. He was the first doctor to describe the disease in 1932, after which it became a widely known condition.
This disease can be painful and debilitating, and associated with life-threatening complications if not treated well.
Experts are working on a permanent cure for Crohn’s disease. However, there are some potential treatments available which can alleviate the signs and symptoms. There are treatments that can provide long-term relief and reduce inflammation. People with Crohn’s disease can also live a healthy life with proper treatment.
Types of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease can be classified into five types, each with its own set of symptoms. They are divided based on the location of inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract as follows:
- Ileocolitis: Here the inflammation is located at the end of the small intestine (ileum) and a part in the large intestine (colon).
- Ileitis: Here the inflammation is located in the lower part of the small intestine (ileum).
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s: Here the inflammation is present near the stomach and in the starting portion of the duodenum (small intestine)
- Jejunoileitis: Here the inflammation is located in the middle portion of the small intestine (jejunum).
- Crohn’s (granulomatous) colitis: Here only the colon is inflamed.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
There is no known exact cause for Crohn’s disease. Doctors suspected diet and stress as contributing factors to Crohn’s disease in the past, but now they conclusion that they may aggravate the condition, but don’t cause the disease. Several factors, including heredity and an impaired immune system, may contribute to the development of this disease.
However, there are some risk factors that may make you more susceptible to Crohn’s disease:
Age: Crohn’s disease can affect anyone, but it’s most common among young adults.
Ethnicity: All ethnic groups are susceptible to Crohn’s disease, but whites are most at risk, especially Jewish who are Eastern European (Ashkenazi).
Family history: If there are any people in your family with a history of Crohn’s disease, then you are at risk of affecting this condition.
Cigarette smoking: Among the main factors that influence the development of Crohn’s disease, cigarette smoking takes the top spot. So quit smoking.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications: Consuming NSAID’s may not cause Crohn’s disease, but they can result in bowel inflammation which makes the condition more severe.
Treatment for Crohn’s Disease
Unfortunately, Crohn’s disease does not yet have a cure but the disease can be managed. There are many treatment options available to help you manage the symptoms and reduce the severity of the condition.
Antidiarrheal and anti-inflammatory drugs (oral 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids) are common medications used to treat Crohn’s.
Immunomodulators or Immune system suppressors
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are caused by an overactive immune system. A combination of drugs that work on your immune system is used. They can reduce the inflammation and limit your immune system’s response.
When people with Crohn’s disease have fistulas and abscesses, antibiotics can reduce drainage and sometimes even heal them.
The inflammation and other complications that can occur from Crohn’s can be treated with one of many available biologic therapies.
The doctor might recommend surgery if lifestyle and diet changes do not relieve your symptoms. More than half of patients with Crohn’s disease undergo a surgical procedure. However, Crohn’s disease cannot be permanently cured by surgery but can temporarily provide relief from symptoms.
A surgical procedure involves removing the damaged portion of the digestive tract and reattaching it with the healthy sections. Fistulas and abscesses can also be closed with surgery.
Often, this condition recurs, most commonly near the reconnected tissues. To minimize the risk of recurrence, it is best to take proper care with medication following surgery.