10 Things Doctors Want You to Know About Crohn's Disease
Remember, always take the time to talk to your doctor about any medical advice that you receive from this or any source that is not your personal healthcare professional.
What Is Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease is a medical condition characterized by a chronic case of inflammation of the intestines. It is known to primarily lead to ulcerations, also known as breakage, in the lining of the small as well as the large intestine. It can cause an issue in the digestive system anywhere between the mouth and the anus. This disease was named after one of the physicians who first described the disease in the year 1932. Crohn’s disease is also termed as colitis or granulomatous enteritis. This medical condition is also known to be closely related to one of the other chronic inflammatory conditions, which only involves the colon, and it is called ulcerative colitis. In combination, Crohn’s disease along with ulcerative colitis is very frequently referred to as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
Symptoms seen in Crohn’s disease: In a few individuals who suffer from Crohn’s disease, it is said that only a last segment of the small intestine, which is also known as ileum, gets affected. However, in the case of other individuals, this disease is restricted to the colon, which is a part of the large intestine. Two of the most common regions that are known to be affected due to the Crohn’s disease are the colon and the last part of the small intestine. The symptoms of this disease can vary from person to person, and its severity may also tend to range from mild to severe in form. Most of the time, the symptoms are said to develop gradually, but often, they come up all of a sudden without giving any warning sign. There can also be a certain duration or period wherein the symptoms or signs do not appear at all. This period is known to be the remission period. When this disease is fully active, a few of the symptoms can include: pain in the abdomen or cramps in the abdomen, sores present in the mouth, sudden onset of fever, loss of weight or reduced appetite, blood found in the stool, diarrhea, the individual becomes tired or fatigued very quickly, and there is the presence of pus or drainage which is near or around the anus region and is caused due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin, called the fistula. Some of the other symptoms of this disease are inflammation of the skin, joints, liver, eyes, or bile ducts and, in the case of children, there would be a delay in growth or sexual development.
This disease is different for different people: Crohn’s is known to be an autoimmune medical condition, and in those individuals who suffer from this disease, their immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract, which then causes inflammation. These flare ups or attacks can lead to symptoms which may include rectal bleeding, pain in the abdomen, fever, and diarrhea. This disease is known to occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, but most of the time, it is known to affect the lower portion of the small intestine as well as the top portion of the large intestine. Due to the various locations of the disease, there can be certain differences in the symptoms, its severity, and the body’s response to treatment. Hence, there is a tendency for this disease to be different for each individual.
It is no fault of the individual: It is no fault of the individual for getting Crohn’s. It is not what we eat that leads to the development of the disease, but, yes, one’s diet is known to play a role since it can lead to flare ups of symptoms. The cause of the disease is attributed to one’s genes as well as the environmental factors that can also trigger the matter.
Treatment is not the same for all Crohn’s patients: For the treatment of Crohn’s, there are various biologics available, which can include adalimumab, certolizumab, and infliximab. The doctor will need to judge various factors before they consider which would be the right treatment method for the individual. One of the other differences is the method of administering the medications. For example, the medicine infliximab can be taken just once in an eight weeks’ period, but there would be a need to visit a center for infusion. Another medicine, known as adalimumab, is in the form of an injection, which the individual can give to themselves once okayed by the doctor, but it has to be taken once every one or two weeks’ time.
One should not stop taking medicines during remission: There have been instances wherein an individual can go into the remission phase even while taking the right kind of medication. But this does not mean that they should stop taking the medicine. It has been seen that stopping the intake of medications, even when the Crohn’s disease is inactive, can lead to an almost 50 percent risk of a recurring flare up, and this flare up can lead to hospitalization of the individual with a possibility for surgery or any other kinds of complications arising.
No need to maintain a strict diet: As long as there are no flare ups of symptoms, you would probably not need to restrict your diet. Since various individuals experience this disease in a different manner, there is not one special diet that works well for all patients of Crohn’s. For those with active Crohn’s disease, such patients should avoid foods which can worsen the symptoms, and those would include caffeine, milk, and any other high fiber food items. But as long as the disease is in an inactive state, one can eat healthy food items.
Importance of sleep to reduce flare ups: Alack of sleep or poor sleeping habits are also known to worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. But even when the disease is not in an active state, there are chances that the individual may suffer from fatigue or insomnia. Hence, it is important that patients should maintain a strict sleeping habit. This would mean that they should go to bed and wake up at the same times so that the body gets used to this habit. Also, they should be sure to sleep for longer hours, at least six to eight hours of sleep, all through the night without being disturbed.
Reducing stress is important to lessen the symptoms: Apart from a good night’s sleep, it is also a priority to reduce any kind of stress. Stress is known to be linked with flare ups of symptoms. Carrying out stress reducing activities is known to improve the quality of life of patients as well as reduce the risk of any kind of symptom flare ups. One can find solace in talking to other individuals who suffer from the same issue so they can share their experiences and stories.
There are other options if medications do not work: First, the doctor may go in for medications to manage the symptoms, but if the symptoms do not show any signs of coming under control, then the doctor may recommend surgery for the patient. About two thirds of patients with this disease have needed to go in for surgery at some point in their life to remove the damaged portion of their intestines.