Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal system. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about Crohn’s disease with a search online right now, which could help you spot early symptoms.
Although Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive system from the mouth to the anus, it most commonly affects the small intestine and the colon, also known as the large intestine. Learn more about this disease today!
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease, typically develop gradually, can range from mild to severe and tend to wax and wane, even at times going into asymptomatic remission. As a result of Crohn’s disease causing long-standing inflammation of the digestive system, the two most common symptoms of the disease are abdominal pain and diarrhea. Both of these symptoms tend to be chronic and severe. Oftentimes, the diarrhea is bloody and may contain mucus or pus.
Other signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease may include:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Delayed growth and development in children
No one knows the exact cause of Crohn’s disease, but researchers hypothesize that it may be autoimmune-mediated. Autoimmune typically refers to your body attacking its own tissues or organs.
In the case of Crohn’s disease, it may be triggered by your immune system mistakenly reacting to defend against a harmless, ubiquitous bacteria in your gut, with this reaction becoming overzealous and extending to involve the tissues of the digestive system as well as other bodily systems.
Despite the cause of Crohn’s not being elucidated, the risk factors for Crohn’s disease include:
- Age: The majority of individuals diagnosed with the disease are younger than the age of 30.
- Family History/Ethnicity: Anywhere from five to 20 percent of patients diagnosed with the disease have a first-degree relative with IBD. Also, Caucasians and Ashkenazi Jews have the highest risk of developing the disease.
- Smoking: Smoking not only increases your risk of developing Crohn’s disease but also may increase the severity of the disease. Due to this, smoking is one of the most modifiable risk factors.
- Environment: Where you live may play a role in the development of the disease. In fact, your risk is higher if you live in an urban area or industrialized country.
Identifying the specific portion of the GI tract affected by Crohn’s disease is of utmost importance. It can have an impact on the symptoms and complications experienced by those diagnosed with Crohn’s disease as well as treatment. This may be helpful in explaining why the symptoms of the disease vary from person to person.
There are at least five recognized types of Crohn’s disease — all of which are based on location. They are:
- Ileocolitis: Affects the ileum (the last part of the small intestine) and the colon. It is the most common form of Crohn’s disease, affecting almost 50 percent of patients.
- Ileitis: Only affects the ileum. It is found in almost 30 percent of Crohn’s patients.
- Crohn’s, or Granulomatous, Colitis: Only affects the colon. It is found in almost 20 percent of Crohn’s patients.
- Gastroduodenal Crohn’s Disease: Affects the stomach and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). It is found in almost five percent of Crohn’s patients.
- Jejunoileitis: Affects the jejunum (the middle of the small intestine). It is the rarest variant of the disease.
Furthermore, almost 30 percent of Crohn’s patients have a variation termed perianal disease. It consists of abnormal channels that form connections between organs and tissues, deep-seated tissue infections, and open sores in the skin surrounding the anus.
When to See a Doctor
If you have not been already diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and are concerned that you may have the disease, make sure to contact your doctor. In particular, you should consider making an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation if you have long-standing changes in your bowel habits, along with other symptoms that may be attributable to Crohn’s disease. This includes:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurrence of unexplained fevers
- Rectal bleeding and/or bloody stools
If you have already been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, the following signs and symptoms should spur a call or visit to your doctor:
- Dehydration, with or without dizziness and/or passing out
- Abdominal bloating
- Shaking chills
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe diarrhea that does not subside within two weeks
Living with Crohn’s
As Crohn’s disease is a chronic medical condition, there are several things that you can do to improve the outcome of your disease.
Exercise: Besides taking your medications as directed by your doctor, you should strive to get regular exercise for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.
Diet: Crohn’s can affect the absorption of calories from food as well as vitamins and nutrients, so eat a balanced and healthy diet. Avoid alcohol.
Quit Smoking: If you are a smoker with Crohn’s disease, you should make quitting smoking a priority. It can increase the severity of your disease as well increase your need for surgery.
Keep Vaccinations Up to Date: While Crohn’s disease makes you more susceptible to infections, some of the medications used to treat the disease can do the same thing. As a result, you should make sure your vaccinations are up to date and ask your doctor about recommended vaccinations, such as those for influenza, pneumonia (pneumococcal), and shingles.
Manage Stress Levels: Since excessive stress can cause Crohn’s disease to flare, consider stress management strategies. This can include meditation, yoga, massage and making time for hobbies or interests outside of school or work.
Pay Attention to Your Mental Health: As a result of increased physical and psychological stresses, Crohn’s disease may also cause depression and/or anxiety.
Get Support: Consider joining a Crohn’s disease support group or see a therapist, as you are not alone in your fight with this disease.
Learn More Today
As a result of its symptoms and possible complications, Crohn’s disease can be an unpleasant disease. This makes the early diagnosis and treatment of the disease paramount, as it can relieve symptoms and delay or prevent the development of complications.
Search online to learn more about Crohn’s and how it manifests, which could help you spot the warning signs if you or someone you love or care for develops them.