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Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. The inflammation leads to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is usually long-term and chronic and can be life-threatening too. There is no final treatment for Crohn’s disease but certain ways can help in lessening the severity.
Inflammation in Crohn’s disease can occur in different areas of the digestive tract. If not treated early the inflammation is likely to penetrate into the deeper layers of the bowel as well.
The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is yet to be known. Previously researchers suspected, diet and stress to be the triggers but now they claim that these factors may aggravate the condition but do not cause it. Crohn’s disease owes its existence to hereditary factors, immune system malfunction, or autoimmune diseases.
1. Immune System
Although the cause is unknown, doctors suggest that its stems from an abnormal reaction by the immune system. The immune system starts to attack good bacteria, food, and other beneficial substances as if they are pathogens. This causes the white blood cells to buildup in the gut lining and trigger inflammation. This inflammation leads to ulcers and bowel injury.
Whether this faulty immune system causes Crohn’s or Crohn’s causes a faulty immune system is still not confirmed.
2. Genetic factors
Crohn’s disease is likely to be transferred through genes because it is common in people with a family history of Crohn’s. Genetics is not the only cause of Crohn’s disease because most of the patients with Crohn’s disease do not have a family history.
The risk factors that may increase the chances of Crohn’s disease to develop are
- Smoking: Smoking can double your chances of developing Crohn’s disease.
- High far diet: A high-fat diet is suspected to slightly increase your chances of developing Crohn’s disease.
- NSAIDs: Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs can also increase your chance of developing Crohn’s disease, slightly.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary from person to person. The most common symptoms are
- Pain: The level of pain depends on the location of the inflammation. Most patients feel pain in the right side of the lower abdominal area.
- Ulcers: Ulcers can form in different areas of the gut. These ulcers can bleed too. Moreover, some patients experience ulcers in their mouths too.
- Fatigue: Patients are likely to feel extremely tired and might suffer from fever too.
- Diarrhea: The inflammation in the gut can cause mild to severe diarrhea. Sometimes patients may defecate mucus, blood, or pus only.
- Less appetite and weight loss: The patient can go through episodes of very low appetite. This usually results in drastic weight loss.
- Anal fissures: It can cause the skin of the anus to crack and lead to pain and bleeding.
The doctors usually ask for general signs and symptoms and then go for a physical examination. The physical examination may show a lump after which they proceed to diagnostic tests. The diagnostic tests used to diagnose Crohn’s disease are
Diet for Crohn’s
There is no diet that can cure Crohn’s disease. But wise eating decisions can lessen the pain and other effects. Patients are advised to watch out for foods that cause them pain or diarrhea, to avoid them completely.
The most common triggers are
- Spicy food
- Unabsorbable fibers
- Sugary foods
No scientific treatment claims to treat Crohn’s disease completely. Medications, surgical procedures, and nutritional supplements are used to limit the risks and lessen the severity of the disease.
The medicines most commonly recommended by doctors are anti-inflammatory drugs such as Sulfazines, Corticosteroids, and Antibiotics like ampicillin and tetracyclines. To control diarrhea and prevent dehydration, patients are often prescribed anti-diarrheal and fluid replacements.
Biologics are a new type of drug. These are made from living organisms. The function of these is to reduce the body’s immune response by targetting the proteins that trigger inflammation.
Often Crohn’s disease patients require surgery to be able to lead a normal life.
The objective of the surgery is to remove the part of the intestine where inflammation gets intense and does not respond to medications. If the patient is at the later stages of the disease they may require more than one surgical procedure.
Often times the patient has to go through a colectomy. The procedure involves the complete removal of the colon. Then the rest of the GI tract is connected.
It is highly likely that the inflammation may reappear in areas near to the removed one. Hence, even surgery is not the ultimate treatment and the patient may need several surgical procedures.
Self-diagnosis and medication is the worst practice. If you fear having Crohn’s disease or have been diagnosed with it you need to consult a gastroenterologist, to devise a treatment plan.
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