Abdominal Pain: Crohn’s Disease
posted by Casey Owens, MD | February 3, 2017
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, is a common inflammatory condition that can affect the GI tract. IBD involves chronic (or long-term) inflammation of some or all of your digestive tract and can come with a number of painful symptoms.
IBD is typically distinguished into two separate diseases: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is inflammation of the inside lining of the colon, and Crohn’s disease is inflammation that can affect any part of the GI tract and involves the entire thickness of the affected area.
Crohn’s disease, the focus of this blog, is a lifelong ailment with no known cure. However, proper management, preventive measures, and diligent care can often allow people with Crohn’s disease to live normal, comfortable lives. Here’s a look at the basics of Crohn’s disease and how it’s treated and managed.
Doctors have not been able to identify any direct causes of Crohn’s disease. However, at its simplest, Crohn’s disease is a disease in which our body’s immune system attacks our body—typically the GI tract—as if it’s a virus or bacteria. These types of problems, where our bodies’ immune systems attack our bodies, is called an autoimmune disease. The following are possible causes of Crohn’s disease.
Several other risk factors for Crohn’s disease have been identified as follows:
Because Crohn’s disease can affect so many different parts of the digestive tract, symptoms can vary between people with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s also comes with long stretches of remission where no symptoms are present at all. During active periods, symptoms may include:
A careful history and physical exam is always the first step in diagnosing Crohn’s disease. Infections of the GI tract and several other diseases can mimic the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. If no obvious other reason for your symptoms is identified, your doctor may order a number of other tests to assess for Crohn’s disease. The following is a sample of tests that are commonly ordered:
Although Crohn’s disease can’t be cured, medications, special diets and other management factors can help the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and often bring about remission. Medications need to be continued indefinitely; if they are stopped after achieving remission, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease will almost always return. Treatment of Crohn’s disease involves managing symptoms and making daily life as comfortable as possible. The following are options your doctor may discuss:
In rare cases, supplemental nutrition through and IV or a feeding tube may be necessary to provide the nutrients our bodies need and to help lower stress on the bowels.
If you’re under 30 and have signs of Crohn’s disease, don’t wait. Speak to your doctor right away and learn what you can do to manage your symptoms and live a healthy life.
I grew up in Utah County and graduated from Brigham Young University. I received my medical degree from the University of Virginia, and I finished my residency in internal medicine at the University of Utah where I also served as chief medical resident. As a doctor, I recognize the tremendous trust my patients place in me, and I do my best to help them understand not only their medical issues but also the plan—the how and why—behind helping them feel better. I love the challenge posed by all gastrointestinal disorders but especially enjoy the challenges and intricacies of Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
“Crohn’s Disease Health Center.” WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/ibd-crohns-disease/crohns-disease/default.htm
“Crohn’s disease.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/crohns-disease/basics/definition/con-20032061
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.