What Is Crohn’s Disease?

What Is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s, or regional enteritis (or ileitis), is a chronic form of IBD. The disease is named after Dr. Burrill Crohn, an American gastroenterologist (1884-1983). In 1932, he was the first physician to describe this illness. Another IBD that is commonly diagnosed is ulcerative colitis.

Crohn’s causes inflammation and irritation of the digestive system, specifically the large and small intestines. Crohn’s can cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. Periodic flare-ups of the disease are common.  This is a chronic condition that can’t be cured. Treatments can help you manage your symptoms, allowing you to lead an active lifestyle.

A half million Americans are estimated to have Crohn’s. Men, women, and children can all be affected.

Crohn’s usually affects younger people, often in their 20s, 30s, or late teens. This condition can occur at any age. Both men and women are affected equally. Children can also develop Crohn’s. Smokers may be at a higher risk for Crohn’s than non-smokers.

What Are the Different Types of Crohn’s Disease?

Different sections of the digestive system can be affected by Crohn’s. The following are some of the types of Crohn’s Disease:

  • Ileocolitis: Inflammation of the small intestine or colon. Ileocolitis, the most common form of Crohn’s Disease, is inflammation.
  • Ileitis: Ileitis is a swelling and inflammation of the small intestine.
  • Gastroduodenal: Inflammation or irritation of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine, the duodenum.
  • Jejunoileitis: Jejunoileitis is a condition in which patches of inflammation appear on the small intestine’s upper half (called jejunum).

What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

No cause has been identified for Crohn’s. Some factors can increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease, including:

  • Autoimmune diseases: Bacteria in the digestive system can cause your immune system to attack healthy cells.
  • Genes: IBD is often inherited. You may have an increased risk if you are related to someone with Crohn’s disease. There are specific gene mutations that can increase the risk of developing Crohn’s.
  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can double your risk for Crohn’s.

What Are the Symptoms Associated With Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s patients can experience flare-ups (severe symptoms) and remissions (no or mild symptoms). Remission can last for weeks or even years. It’s impossible to predict when a flare-up will occur.

Symptoms of Crohn’s include:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Chronic diarrhea 
  • Feeling full
  • Fever.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss.
  • Skin tags that are not normal (usually found on the buttocks)
  • Anal fissures.
  • Anal fistulas.
  • Blood clots in the rectum.

How Is Crohn’s Disease Diagnosed?

People with Crohn’s disease are often first diagnosed when they experience diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or unexplained weight loss. Contact your pediatrician if you suspect your child has Crohn’s.

Your healthcare provider might order these tests to determine the cause of symptoms:

  • Blood test: The test looks for high levels of white blood cells, which may indicate infection or inflammation. Tests also check for anemia, which is a low red cell count. Anemia affects one-third of people with Crohn’s disease.
  • Stool test: A stool sample is examined to determine if it contains bacteria or parasites. This test can be used to rule out infections that cause chronic diarrhea.
  • Colonoscopy: A colonoscopy is a procedure in which your doctor examines the interior of your colon using an endoscope. This thin tube has a camera and light attached. Your doctor will take a tissue sample (biopsy) taken from the colon to check for signs of inflammation.
  • CT scan: CT scans create images of the digestive system. This tells your doctor how severe the inflammation of the intestines is.
  • Upper GI endoscopy (GI): Your doctor inserts a thin, long tube called an Endoscope into your mouth. A camera attached to the endoscope allows your doctor to see inside. Your doctor may take tissue samples during an upper endoscopy.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) exam: X-rays during the upper GI examination allow your doctor to watch a barium liquid move through your digestive system.

What Are the Complications of Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s can cause serious complications, including:

  • Abscesses: Abscesses are pus-filled pockets that form in the abdomen or digestive tract.
  • Anal fissures: Anal fissures can cause itching, pain, and bleeding.
  • Bowel obstructions: Scar tissue, fistulas, or narrowed intestines can cause bowel obstructions. Gases and waste matter build up. Surgery is required if there is a large or small bowel blockage.
  • Colon cancer: Colon cancer is increased by Crohn’s in the large intestine.
  • Fistulas: IBD may cause abnormal, tunnel-like openings in the intestinal wall called fistulas. Sometimes, these fistulas become infected.
  • Malnutrition: Chronic diarrhea may make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Lack of iron is a common problem among people with Crohn’s disease. A lack of iron can cause anemia (low red cell count). This occurs when organs are not getting enough oxygen.
  • Ulcers: Ulcers are open sores that can appear in the mouth, stomach, or rectum.

How Can I Prevent Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s is not preventable. Healthy lifestyle changes can reduce symptoms and flare-ups.

  • Stop smoking.
  • Eat a healthy, low-fat diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage stress.

When Should I Consult a Doctor?

You should call your healthcare provider if you have the following:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Constipation.
  • Extreme weight loss.
  • Fever.
  • Inability to pass gas.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe abdominal discomfort.
  • Signs that a flare-up is about to occur.
  • Uncontrollable diarrhea.
  • Anemia can cause weakness or fatigue.

Crohn’s disease can cause unpredictable flare-ups that disrupt your life. Speak to your doctor about what you can do to control the disease. You can live a healthy life by managing symptoms and making lifestyle changes.

How Is Crohn’s Disease Treated or Managed?

The treatment for Crohn’s Disease varies depending on your symptoms’ cause and severity. The goal of treatment for children is to maintain remission, induce remission, and manage any Crohn’s complications over time.

You may be prescribed one or more of the following treatments to treat Crohn’s Disease by your healthcare provider:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics are used to treat or prevent infections. Abscesses can form from severe conditions. Severe infections can also cause fistulas.
  • Antidiarrheal medication: Antidiarrheal medications such as loperamide (Imodium A(r)) can stop severe diarrhea.
  • Biologics: Biologics contain monoclonal antigens to suppress the immune system.
  • Bowel rest: Your provider may suggest you go without food and drink for a few days or longer. You may need to receive intravenous nutrition (parenteral nutrition) to get the required nutrition. You can only drink the prescribed liquids or use a feeding tube.
  • Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids such as prednisone, cortisone, and others can reduce inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases.
  • Immunomodulators: These medications calm inflammation by suppressing a hyperactive immune system. These include azathioprine, cyclosporine, and other drugs.
  • Surgery: Surgery can be used to treat the complications of Crohn’s. Surgery may be required to treat intestinal perforations, blockages, or bleeding.

Stem Cell Research for Crohn’s Disease

Scientists are delving into stem cell research to explore its potential as a treatment option for the complications associated with Crohn’s disease. Exciting developments in this field have demonstrated the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in promoting disease remission and significantly improving symptoms of Crohn’s disease. 

Promoting Remission with Stem Cells

For individuals with Crohn’s disease, periods of remission with few symptoms are possible. While maintaining long-term remission can be challenging, appropriate treatment and care can help achieve this goal. Collaborating with healthcare providers to develop personalized treatment plans that address individual needs is crucial. The aim is to enhance the quality of life for patients rather than providing a complete cure.

Addressing Inflammation with Stem Cells

Inflammation is significant in various disorders, including heart disease, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease. Treatment approaches for these conditions often revolve around reducing inflammation within the body. Whether through medications, dietary and lifestyle adjustments, or natural methods, the objective is to minimize inflammation and its detrimental effects. Stem cell research offers a promising avenue for using these remarkable cells to combat inflammation and improve the overall well-being of individuals with Crohn’s disease. To learn more about Crohn’s Disease and what Stemedix has to offer, contact a care coordinator today!

Stem Cell Therapy for Crohn’s – How it May Help Perianal Fistulas

Stem Cell Therapy for Crohn’s – How it May Help Perianal Fistulas

A recent study has shown how stem cells may be able to help Crohn’s disease patients who suffer from perianal fistulas. The researchers specifically investigated how stem cell therapy for Crohn’s Disease compared to conventional approaches including antibiotics and immunosuppressors. Because research is still in its infancy, there has been great interest in how to best address perianal fistulas in Crohn’s disease patients.

For their study, the scientists studied adults between the ages of 19 and 68. The patients were divided into three groups: one group received mesenchymal stem cell therapy applied locally, another received a combination of cellular and anti-cytokine therapy, and a third received a combination of immunosuppressors and antibiotics. The researchers looked at the impact of these three therapeutic interventions on the frequency of relapses of perianal fistulas and evaluated patients with the index of perianal activity of Crohn’s disease (PCDAI).

Their results showed that the combined cellular and anti-cytokine therapy improved perianal lesions in Crohn’s disease patients more so than did the immunosuppressor and antibiotic combination. Specifically, with the stem cell and anti-cytokine approach, fistulas remained closed longer and fistulas recurred less frequently. Future research should help to determine if and how this stem cell approach can provide an effective and safe long-term therapy for Crohn’s disease patients with perianal fistulas.

Reference: Knyazev, OV et al. (2018). Stem cell therapy for perianal Crohn’s disease. Ter Arkh, 90(3), 60-66.

Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease with Stem Cells

Treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease with Stem Cells

Over the past few years, data has accumulated showing the promise for cell-based therapies to help in treating Inflammatory bowel disease with stem cells. Specifically, stem cells appear to offer the opportunity to overcome several weaknesses associated with conventional therapies that have targeted perianal Crohn’s disease.

Based on these positive results, scientists and healthcare providers have become more adamant about understanding the broader role stem cells could play in the treatment of all inflammatory bowel disease. A new review published in Current Gastroenterology Reports discusses this specific issue and offers insights into the direction of stem cell research as it relates to inflammatory bowel disease.

The authors of this review discuss data from over a dozen clinical trials that have already been conducted on the impact of stem cell therapies in Crohn’s disease. Thus far, much of the success of regenerative medicine for the treatment of Crohn’s disease has been for the specific treatment of perianal Crohn’s disease, which occurs when the digestive and gastrointestinal inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease extends to the anal area.

Given the frequency with which the lining of the intestine is inflamed in inflammatory bowel disease, including both perianal Crohn’s disease and non-perianal Crohn’s disease, research efforts are focusing more and more on how stem cells may be able to combat this type of luminal disease. The authors put forth suggestions for the types of information that researchers should aim to obtain if we are to adequately treat intraluminal disease with regenerative medicine.

The potential of stem cells to address inflammatory bowel disease that has been demonstrated so far provides hope that this type of strategy will help not only patients with perianal Crohn’s disease but those with other forms of inflammatory bowel disease as well. More research should help to determine if and how these therapies can be deployed to help this patient population.

 

 

Reference: Lightner, A.L. (2019). Stem cell therapies for inflammatory bowel disease. Current Gastroenterology Reports, 21(4), 16.

Use of Stem Cells to Treat Perianal Crohn’s Disease

Use of Stem Cells to Treat Perianal Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease, a form of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, affects an estimated 700,000 people in the United States, affecting men and women equally. While the disease is characterized by abnormal inflammation in the gastrointestinal and digestive tracts, some people with the illness develop perianal Crohn’s disease. In this case, the inflammation extends to areas around the anus. The precise proportion of Crohn’s disease patients who develop perianal Crohn’s disease is debated, but the need for better treatments for the condition is not. A new and unique treatment is the use of stem cells to treat Perianal Crohn’s Disease.

Unfortunately, though there are several drug and surgical interventions that have been developed to treat perianal Crohn’s disease, each of the available treatment options suffers critical limitations, including risks for adverse side effects.  There is no available therapeutic approach that successfully achieves long-term remission.

Based on the need for – and lack of – more efficacious interventions for perianal Crohn’s disease and the ability of cell-based therapies to address similar types of disease, researchers have positioned that stem cell therapy may be a promising avenue for the relevant patient population. A recent review published in the Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis covers the research that has been conducted to address this possibility and the data that suggest that mesenchymal stem cells could provide a safe and effective way to treat perianal Crohn’s disease without the unwanted side effects associated with conventional treatment options.

In this review, the authors cover clinical trials on cell-based therapies for perianal Crohn’s disease, including phase 1, phase 2, and phase 3 randomized controlled trials. The authors consider the differences in outcomes between conventional treatments and cell-based therapies and offer suggestions for the direction of research into the use of stem cells for the treatment of perianal Crohn’s disease.

 

 

Reference: Lightner, A.L. & Faubion, W.A. (2017). Mesenchymal stem cell injections for the treatment of perianal Crohn’s disease: What we have accomplished and what we still need to. Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, 11(10), 1267-1276.

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