Crohn’s is an incurable, rare condition that falls under the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) category. It affects less than 200,000 people annually in the U.S. The chronic condition is marked by inflammation of the digestive tract lining. Although it is lifelong, early, consistent treatment will ease its effects and make it easier to manage.
Signs and Symptoms
As with many illnesses, the symptoms for Crohn’s can range from very mild to very severe. They present differently in everyone, but the most common include:
- Bloody stool
- Iron deficiency (anemia)
- Abdominal pain/cramping
- Pain/drainage around the anus due to inflammation from fistulas
- Mouth sores
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Delayed growth or sexual development, in children
- Inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
- Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
- Kidney stones
If you experience multiple symptoms for an extended amount of time, schedule a visit with your doctor to determine whether or not you have Crohn’s.
Crohn’s vs. Other IBD
Diagnosing Crohn’s can be tricky. Inflammatory bowel diseases can present in several ways, many of them being very similar to another. Identifying Crohn’s takes time and attention to detail. Other illnesses that are similar to Crohn’s include:
Ulcerative Colitis (UC): affects the large intestine and causes the lining of the colon to become inflamed. It develops tiny open sores, also known as ulcers.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): presents symptoms without visible signs of damage or disease in your digestive tract.
Celiac Disease: gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine.
It may take a prolonged period of observation to differentiate between which illness you have. Some conditions are easier to identify since they only affect a specific area; however, other conditions may make for a difficult diagnosis. Although all of these conditions share symptoms, the good news is that they may be treated similarly as well.
The main trigger for any IBD symptoms is the inflammation caused by the disease. Accordingly, the first treatment option that doctors recommend is an anti-inflammatory. Doctors usually prescribe a medication based on the location of inflammation.
Doctors may also recommend taking an immune system oppressor. These immunosuppressants fight the body’s natural response to release inflammation-inducing chemicals into the digestive tract, which damages the lining and triggers symptoms.
Other common medications include those that target your symptoms. This means a regimen of pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medication, and vitamins and supplements.
Since Crohn’s and other IBD are chronic, you need to consider long-term treatment options for your body. Stay on top of your medication and symptom reducers. Sticking to your prescribed treatment will help doctors further investigate your illness, figure out what is working, and what needs to be adjusted.
Along with your continued prescription, you should take time to evaluate your diet. There are many foods that create flare-ups and are counterproductive to your treatment. Make yourself familiar with what you should and should not consume and consult with your doctor if you have any concerns.
To connect with a primary care physician in your area, visit CHIMemorialMedicalGroup.org.