Crohn’s disease is a chronic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It most often affects at the small intestine and/or colon, however it can involve any area of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus. There are multiple layers of the small intestine and all may be inflamed in individuals with Crohn’s disease. In most cases, there is normal healthy bowel in between patches of diseased bowel. Crohn’s, and a similar disease, ulcerative colitis, are grouped under the category of diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is estimated that nearly half of a million Americans have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease affects both males and females primarily between the ages of 15-35. Crohn’s disease is associated with a slightly increased risk of small intestinal and colorectal cancer.
There is no individual test that can definitively diagnose Crohn’s disease. To accurately diagnose Crohn’s disease, your doctor will evaluate the results of laboratory tests, X-rays and findings on endoscopy and pathology tests. Additional testing may be performed to eliminate other conditions from consideration because the symptoms of Crohn’s disease can mimic those of other gastrointestinal disorders.
Individuals with Crohn’s disease can experience a wide range of symptoms varying from mild to severe. During times of remission, symptoms may be mild and during flare-ups, symptoms may become more severe. Common symptoms an individual may experience are:
Some of the most common risk factors are:
Your doctor may perform an endoscopic examination which may include a colonoscopy and an endoscopy of the stomach and small intestine to diagnose and monitor your Crohn’s disease. The treatment for Crohn’s disease depends on the location and severity of disease, complications and response to previous treatment.
The goals of treatment are to control inflammation, correct nutritional deficiencies, and relieve symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. The main treatment alternatives are drugs, nutritional supplements or surgery. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, however, treatment will help with the symptoms. Only your physician can determine the most appropriate treatment.
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