Crohn's Disease: The Details Explained

Understanding Chrons Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes injury to the intestines. It is a chronic condition and usually begins between 15 and 40 years of age. What triggers the initial intestinal inflammation at the beginning of the disease is still unknown, but a viral or bacterial infection that activates the immune system may be the culprit. The idea is that the body’s immune response creates inflammation to fight off the infection, but stays active even after the infection is gone.

Certain genetic predispositions may increase the likelihood of developing Crohn’s disease in the presence of the proper triggers.

Once an individual has Crohn’s disease, he or she will experience intermittent symptoms lifelong. The inner lining and deep tissues of the intestinal wall swell and become irritated. The condition can cause these tissues to thicken or wear out, leading to the development of ulcers, tears and abscesses. A common complication of the disease is known as a fistula, which is an abnormal passageway between organs, usually between one part of the intestine and another when associated with Crohn’s disease.

Ulcers and inflammation can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth down to the rectum. The ileum is a section of the small intestine located in the lower right abdomen that is particularly prone to damage due to Crohn’s disease. Occasionally, other parts of the body, such as the eyes and joints, can also be affected.


The severity of symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease varies from person to person. Some individuals experience only mild cramps and diarrhea and do not feel the need to seek medical attention. Most sufferers, however, have painful flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of no symptoms.

When the disease first begins or when there is a flare-up, abdominal pain below the belly button develops and usually worsens after meals.

Other symptoms include:

-Diarrhea that may contain blood
-Sores around the anus
-Mucus or pus discharge from the anus
-Pain while having a bowel movement
-Sores in the mouth
-Loss of appetite
-Back or joint pain
-Vision changes or pain in the eyes
-Weight loss despite eating normally


Currently, no test exists specifically to diagnose the presence of Crohn’s disease. If it is Crohn’s disease, then the symptoms and the results of other tests will fit a pattern over time. Usually, the doctor will look for intestinal inflammation and rule out other digestive illnesses in order to come up with a definitive conclusion, and it may be months before he or she can diagnose the disease with certainty. The doctor will run a series of tests which may include blood tests, autoantibody tests, stool tests, upper gastrointestinal series, colonoscopies, or biopsies.

These tests help rule out infection or other diseases such as ulcerative colitis, a disease related to Crohn’s that also causes inflammation in the intestines.


While Crohn’s is a lifelong condition, there are periods where no symptoms are present. A flare up can last weeks or months, but it is followed by months or years of good health and no symptoms. There is no way to prevent the disease, but there are ways to minimize the effects of Crohn’s on the body. Eat healthy, well balanced meals to store up vitamins and nutrients between meals in order to decrease complications associated with poor nutrition like anemia and weight loss. Crohn’s disease may increase the risk of colon cancer, so a colonoscopy should be performed regularly after eight years or more with the disease.

Medications such as aminosalicylates can improve the symptoms of Crohn’s disease by reducing intestinal inflammation. Certain antibiotics can also kill bowel-irritating bacteria. If persistent diarrhea occurs with no signs of infection, antidiarrheal medication can also be helpful. Furthermore, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors are drugs that have been newly approved to treat Crohn’s. These work by blocking TNF, an inflammatory substance made by immune system cells. They are normally prescribed only for individuals with moderate to severe symptoms because of their tendency to cause harmful side effects. Surgery may be necessary to treat Crohn’s disease, but is generally only performed when there is a bowel obstruction, a fistula, or symptoms that persist despite other types of medical intervention.

If new symptoms arise or there are changes in current ones, additional treatment might be necessary. It is important to be in frequent contact with your doctor to manage the disease. A serious complication of Crohn’s disease is a bowel obstruction, which occurs when the intestines become constricted and prevent digestive contents from passing through. This will cause severe abdominal pain and vomiting and requires immediate treatment. A fever, heavy rectal bleeding or black, paste-like stool are other symptoms that require emergency medical attention.

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