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
- 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
- Extreme weight loss.
- 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!