When it comes to diseases, most people are aware of the common ones like cancer or cardiovascular disease due to its life-threatening effects.
However, most people do not know or better yet, haven’t heard about lesser-known diseases like Crohn’s diseases, however serious and life-consuming it may be.
Over 1.5 million people in India alone suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Like Crohn’s, putting us second only to the USA.
So, through this article, RedHeal brings to you all the information related to Crohn’s disease you need to be aware of.
What is Crohn’s disease?
As mentioned above, Crohn’s disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects all or parts of the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract, especially the large and small bowels. However, it has a tendency to affect any part of your body between your mouth and anus.
Crohn’s disease can be painful at times and also develop life-threatening complications.
Causes and risks
While what causes this disease is not known, studies show that factors like an immune system, genetics, and lifestyle can greatly influence its development.
It was also found out that diet and stress can trigger the aggravation of the symptoms, however, are not the reason for its occurrence. Below are some of the common causes and factors that risk its development.
Immune system: An auto-immune condition triggered by a bacteria or virus is one of the most common causes of Crohn’s diseases. Due to this abnormality in the immune system, it attacks the cells in your digestive tract instead of fighting the microorganisms
Genetics: As mentioned earlier, genes play a common role in making one susceptible to this disease.
Smoking: While it is not the sole reason, it can put you at risk of developing it or aggravating its symptoms.
Age: Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, however, it usually develops in younger people before the age of 30.
Unhealthy food: Diet high in fats and refined foods increases the risk of developing this disease. It was also found that people living in developed and urban areas are more prone to it.
Medications: Anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and diclofenac can aggravate its symptoms.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can vary from mild to severe, and differ from person to person.
While few people may develop it gradually, a few others might develop it all of a sudden. Below are its common signs and symptoms.
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal cramps and pains
- Blood motions
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
Other signs may also include inflammation of the skin, eyes, or joints, and the inflammation of the liver.
As the severity of the disease increases, more aggravated symptoms like ulcers, perianal fistula, and shortness of breath or inability to be more physically active may arise. Early detection and diagnosis of this disease can provide remission and avoid severe complications.
When to see a doctor?
Consult a doctor as soon as you notice persistent bowel habits that may or may not be accompanied by other signs such as abdominal pain, blood motions, unexplained weight loss, unexplained fever that lasts for more than two days, and diarrhea.
Your doctor may suggest you take a series of health tests and carefully eliminates possible causes before coming to confirming Crohn’s disease as there is no single specific test to determine it.
Some of the tests may include:
- Blood test
- Stool test
- CT and MRI scans of specific areas of the tissues and organs
The unfortunate thing about Crohn’s disease is that currently there is no cure for it.
However, with early and proper diagnosis, its symptoms can be greatly reduced for the long term.
Depending on the severity of your condition and the symptoms, anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal medications may be prescribed.
A few doctors may also prescribe antibiotics to reduce the severity of the symptoms and its triggers.
Apart from medication, proper changes to lifestyle and mainly diet needs to be done, as it can trigger the symptoms to a great extent.
The doctor will usually recommend seeing a professional dietitian to understand which foods are triggering the symptoms and to make diet changes that will help ease it.
Your dietitian may usually recommend you manage your fiber intake, reduce the intake of fatty foods and dairy products, and drink loads of water. However, do remember that the dietary requirements differ from person to person.
Similarity to Ulcerative Colitis
Both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis (UC)are Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) and may appear similar in terms of symptoms, they are both different.
UC affects the colon and its outermost tissue lining, whereas Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract and all the layers of the intestinal tissue.
If you notice any of the symptoms you read in this article or are simply in doubt of your health condition, we recommend you to always check with a gastroenterologist.