Crohn’s disease is inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the digestive tract. Any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus, can be affected. Crohn’s is often found in the intestines, especially the area where the small intestine and colon meet. All layers of the digestive tract may be inflamed, including the lining and inner and outer walls.
Crohn’s disease is a type of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease). No one knows yet what causes IBD. But there are a number of treatment options. These can help people with Crohn’s lead full, active lives.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
- Abdominal pain and bloating after meals
- Sores in the anal area
- High fever and chills
- Loss of appetite; possible weight loss
- Bloody diarrhea
- Nausea or vomiting
To diagnose Crohn’s disease, your doctor will examine you and ask you questions. Give your doctor details about your symptoms and health history. Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has ever had IBD, because it may run in families.
You may have certain tests, including:
- Barium enema, upper GI series, and small bowel series. These produce a series of x-rays that give your doctor a better look at your digestive tract.
- Endoscopy to look directly into your rectum or colon. A sample of tissue (biopsy) is sometimes taken for later study. This test uses a thin, flexible tube to take video pictures of your digestive tract.
- Blood or stool tests to help rule out other problems.
- CT scan to look for problems in your digestive tract. This test uses x-rays and computers to create images of your digestive tract.
While Crohn’s disease has no cure, the symptoms can be treated. Help manage your symptoms by following your doctor’s advice and watching what you eat.
Certain medications can help control your symptoms. These may include:
- A type of anti-inflammatory medication (called 5-ASA compounds) to help reduce intestinal swelling and discomfort.
- Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation
- Antibiotics to fight bacteria that may lead to infection
- Medications to control your body’s immune system (the system that fights infection by causing inflammation)
Avoid any food that makes your symptoms worse. These foods vary from person to person. But high-fiber foods (such as fresh vegetables) and high-fat foods (such as dairy products and red meat) cause symptoms in many people. Keep track of foods that cause you problems.
Surgery can remove a severely affected part of the digestive tract. If this is an option for you, your doctor can give you more information.