What is Crohn’s disease?
This is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause inflammation of the entire digestive tract from mouth to anus. The disease is manifested as abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss or malnutrition. If timely precautions are not taken, the condition can be highly impairing with life-threatening complications.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease may vary from person to person. These include:
- Diarrhea (that might be persistent in nature)
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Blood in the stools (Hematochezia)
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Drainage near the anal area.
- Frequent bowel movements
- Night Sweats
- Loss of normal menstrual cycle
Some people may also experience severe symptoms such as:
- Inflammation of skin and eyes
- Inflammation of liver or bile ducts
- Delayed growth or sexual development in children
There are also some symptoms that occur outside the digestive tract due to Crohn’s Disease. These include:
- Increase in risk of arthritis – The patients with Crohn’s disease are more prone to arthritis because this disease is associated with inflammation. Joints such as knees, elbows, and wrists are more commonly affected.
- Increased risk of osteoporosis and vitamin D deficiency – As a result of Crohn’s disease, the absorption of vitamin D is compromised, due to which there is an elevated risk of osteoporosis. Moreover, there are certain patients that take Prednisone for the treatment of Crohn’s disease end up having osteoporosis.
- Skin-related conditions –The following skin conditions have been seen to occur as a result of the inflammatory process in the Crohn’s disease,
Erythema nodosum – There is a formation of tender red nodules on the legs and shin area.
Pyoderma gangrenosum – These are deep ulcers forming on the leg that lead to the formation of chronic wounds.
Psoriasis – This also occurs due to inflammation due to Crohn’s disease, which is manifested as red patches on the skin along with silvery scales. Psoriatic arthritis is also a form of psoriasis that affects bones and joints of the body.
Skin cancer – There are some medications used to treat Crohn’s disease that increase the risk of both non- melanomatous skin cancer and melanomas. For example:
1. azathioprine and mercaptopurine have the potential to increase the risk for basal and squamous cell carcinomas.
2. The anti-TNF class of drugs also increase the risk of melanomas.
- Canker sores– Although, this is unusual in case of Crohn’s disease, they tend to happen during Crohn’s flare and most commonly appear on the gums or under the tongue.
- Migraines– The patients of Crohn’s disease are also more prone to migraines.
- Eye infection – Usually two types of eye infection can occur in the eyes as a result of Crohn’s disease.
- Episcleritis, which is the irritation and inflammation of episclera (a layer of tissue that covers the white part of the eye).
- Uveitis, inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye. This causes distinct pain and may also cause sudden redness, blurred vision, and light sensitivity.
What causes Crohn’s disease?
The causes of this medical condition are not absolutely defined yet. However, the following two causes are most commonly seen.
The immune system – People with abnormalities in immune system have more probability to have Crohn’s disease. This is because in some cases, the immune cells, in an effort to attack the invasive cells also attack the body’s own digestive cells.
Hereditary– Genetics play an important role. Parents with Crohn’s disease may pass on the same genes to their children and increase their chances of having this ailment.
How is it diagnosed?
You must consult a doctor if you have one or more of the above symptoms. Ideally, the best gastroenterologist in India will diagnose the disease on the basis of a combination of following diagnositic tests:
- Blood test for anemia and infection
- Fecal test
- CT scan
- Capsule endoscopy
- Balloon-assisted enteroscopy
Crohn’s disease treatment
As per some of the top 10 gastroenterologists in India, there are 3 facades for the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Surgical treatment
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
Corticosteroids such as prednisone and budesonide
Oral 5-aminosalicylates like sulfasalazine
- Immune system suppressor
Azathioprine and mercaptopurine
Infliximab, adalimumab and certolizumab pegol
Natalizumab and vedolizumab
Antibiotics are prescribed to treat any fistulas or abscess that is formed as a complication of the condition. These antibiotics include:
Dietary and Lifestyle changes
Certain food eating habits and lifestyle may be more prone to causing Crohn’s disease. Following changes may help in the prevention and healing of this disorder.
- Reduced intake of dairy products – many issues that are related to Crohn’s disease such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas may improve with the elimination of dairy products in the routine diet.
- Low-fat food- The products that are low in fat should be preferred so that they can be easily digested through the intestine. You must avoid eating things like butter, margarine, cream sauce
- Avoid foods like alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods
- Eat small frequent meals in a day
- Drink plenty of water
- Start taking multivitamins
- Reduced smoking- Reduction in smoking will overall increase the digestive health of the patient and also reduce the chances of relapse and repeat surgeries.
Even though stress is not the prime cause of the disease, high levels of stress make the symptoms even worse. Hence, it is important to know management of stress on daily basis. Meditation is an important aspect of psychological therapy.
Physical exercise is an important aspect of the overall improvement of health. It not only helps in the management of stress and reduces depression, but also improve and normalize the bowel function of the body. Breathing exercises are also helpful in calming the mind.
Several patients are routinely treated in some of the best gastroenterology hospitals in India at affordable costs.