Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes swelling or irritation in the lining of your digestive tract. Crohn’s mostly affects the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. But it also can show up in any part of the digestive tract. This sets it apart from other IBDs.
Crohn’s: The Symptoms
Because this disease is chronic, meaning it affects you for a long time, symptoms can come and go. They might strike without warning. You’ll notice:
- Frequent bouts of diarrhea that over-the-counter drugs don’t help
- Blood in your stool
- Feeling like you need to go but can’t
- Intense cramps or stomach pain with nausea and vomiting
- Ongoing fever or weight loss you can’t explain
Crohn’s: Other Affects On The Body
Symptoms might also appear outside your intestines, such as:
- Painful mouth ulcers like canker sores
- Swelling in your eyes or under your skin
- Arthritis-like stiffness in your joints or spine
- Fissures — small tears — in the anus
Crohn’s: Susceptible Populations
Crohn’s tends to run in families. It’s most common in people of Eastern European Jewish descent. Some people are diagnosed early, between the ages of 15-35. But the disease can hit someone of any age or ethnic background, and it affects both men and women.
Other than family history, no other factors have been identified. Some possiblities considered by physicians:
- Living in an urban or industrial area
- Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Currently, there is no one test for Crohn’s. One test that is used is the colonoscopy. This uses a thin, lighted tube to look inside your colon. Other ways include a CT scan or an MRI, which let the doctor view your whole digestive tract. Alternatively, there is the capsule endoscopy. The patient swallows a capsule with a tiny camera in it for this test.
Physicians prescribe a mix of meds and lifestyle changes. This can help heal intestines and ease symptoms. Surgery may be necessary at some point. It won’t cure the disease, but it can get rid of the diseased parts of your digestive tract while saving the healthy parts.
Crohn’s: Connection to Cancer
Crohn’s in the large intestine has been linked to colon cancer. In addition to radiation and chemotherapy, other suggested treatments are:
- Mind-body practices like meditation, yoga, tai chi, and hypnosis
- Chiropractic treatment
- Massage or reflexology
- Energy medicine such as Reiki — a healing technique using touch — or qi gong
- Supplements, vitamins, and probiotics
Certain foods are to be avoided to lessen symptoms. For example:
- Skip carbonated drinks.
- Limit some high-fiber foods.
- Drink more liquids.
- Eat frequent, small meals.
- Keep track of what you eat so you can target problem foods.