Crohn’s disease can be a debilitating and sometimes life-threatening condition. The disease belongs to a category of conditions known as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) that affect over 1.6 million Americans.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic and usually long-term inflammatory condition that affects the gastrointestinal tracts. Crohn’s can affect any part of your digestive system, but it usually impacts your small intestine and colon.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
The symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease are rather unpleasant for the most part, and they can vary from person to person.
· Pain is often coupled with the inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease, though the level of pain varies depending upon the inflammation occurs in the gut
· Diarrhea can range from mild to severe
· Ulcers can occur in the stomach, mouth, or both
· Exhaustion is often associated with Crohn’s disease
· Changes to appetite can occur
· Weight loss may occur as a result of appetite loss
· Rectal bleeding or anal fissures may occur when the skin of the anus becomes cracked and bleeding
· A feeling of fullness in your abdomen
Crohn’s vs Ulcerative Colitis
Crohn’s disease is often mistaken for ulcerative colitis, and while the two are both considered inflammatory bowel diseases, they also share some key differences. While ulcerative colitis does also cause inflammation, it usually only occurs in the large intestine and in a continuous pattern, rather than Crohn’s disease which may show up in “patches”. Another difference is the layers affected by the disease—Crohn’s disease can often lead to problems that people with ulcerative colitis may not have.
Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease
Unfortunately, there is no one test that can diagnose Crohn’s right off the bat. Instead, your physician may refer you to a Crohn’s disease specialist who will run a combination of tests and procedures to procure a diagnosis.
For most, Crohn’s is a lifelong ailment that will require constant treatment. Sometimes the symptoms of Crohn’s will be eased with medication, in other cases, a person may require surgery. Alleviating the inflammation caused by the disease is top priority for treatment options. The type of treatment method your doctor prescribed will depend on whether he or she categorizes your Crohn’s disease as mild, moderate, or severe. it’s estimated that around 60-75% of patients with Crohn’s disease will require surgery to fix any complications of the disease.
Whichever treatment method your doctor suggests, it’s important to understand any side effects it poses. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share your concerns with your doctor—that’s what he or she is there for! You don’t have to live in the constant pain or discomfort of Crohn’s…with treatment there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.