Crohn’s disease is an ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease can affect any area of the GI tract, from the mouth to the anus, but most commonly affects the lower part of the small intestine, i.e., the ileum.The cause of the disease is unknown, but there are genetic links in some families. Crohn’s disease can occur at any age but most often appears in adolescence and early adulthood. The disease strikes approximately seven of every 10,000 people, i.e., less than one-tenth of one percent of the population. It affects men and women equally and seems to run in some families. Risk factors include a family history of inflammatory bowel disease and/or Jewish ancestry. About 20 percent of those afflicted with Crohn’s disease have a blood relative with some form of IBD – most often a brother or sister, but sometimes a parent or child.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are known to include the following:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Painful and foul-smelling stools
Proper diagnosis and treatment are critical phases in countering Crohn’s disease. In performing a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will remove small tissue specimens (biopsies). These tissue samples are then microscopically examined by a pathologist – a physician who specializes in the diagnosis of disease via microscopic examination of a tissue sample – to determine if an abnormality exists, such as Crohn’s disease. The pathologist’s diagnosis is often the key to determining the need for further treatment. The proper classification of IBD, especially Crohn’s disease versus ulcerative colitis, determines the appropriate treatment options.Crohn’s disease tends to go through cycles of activity (the presence of symptoms) and remission (the lack of symptoms). The treatment goal for Crohn’s is to control the inflammatory process and alleviate any complications associated with the illness. Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease and is associated with a slightly increased risk of small intestine and colorectal cancer.
Treatment Options for Crohn’s Disease.
Prescription medication and/or therapy medication that can control inflammation are usually prescribed. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat certain Crohn’s disease-associated complications, such as fistulas (abnormal connections between organs) or abscesses. Surgery may be necessary for those patients who do not respond to prescription and/or therapy medication or if there are complications, such as an infection or obstruction (blockage) of the GI tract.
Measures You Can Take to Relieve the Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease:
- Maintain a high-fiber diet that is low in fat and calories; consult your physician for proper diet and nutrition information.
- Avoid foods that are high in lactose, such as milk and sugar; spicy and acidic foods; foods that worsen diarrhea; and caffeinated beverages, such as cola, coffee, and tea.
- Ensure an adequate daily fluid intake.
Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor:
- What part of my GI tract is affected?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the risks and side effects of these treatment options?
- What can I do to take care of myself during and after treatment?
- How long will the treatment last, and what will be my follow-up?
- To whom may I turn for additional and dietary information?
Sources of Additional Information:
American College of Gastroenterology
American Gastroenterological Association
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America
National Institutes of Health
This patient diagnostic fact sheet is provided to you as a service by AmeriPath. It is intended for patient education and information only. It does not constitute advice, nor should it be taken to suggest or replace professional medical care from your physician. Your treatment options may vary, depending upon your medical history and current condition. Only your physician and you can determine your best option.