Crohn’s Disease: How to find out if you have it and how to treat it
What you need to know to take the first steps to start treating Crohn’s Disease
What is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn's disease (CD) is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that consists of chronic and persistent inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. The inflammation is caused by the excessive activation of the immune system, which makes Crohn’s an autoimmune disease. CD afflicts around 1 in every 400 people, being a little more common among women than in men.
What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms of CD are abdominal pain (more commonly on the lower right side), diarrhea, bloody stools and vomiting. In some cases, people can also suffer from malnutrition, due to inadequate absorption of nutrients.
What are the causes?
CD is caused by over-activation of the immune system in the intestines, and it might be triggered by environmental factors such as infections, use of medication, smoking, diet, and stress. Some studies indicate that bacterial infections in the digestive tract can initiate IBD in susceptible people.
Medications like aspirin and non-steroid anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, diclofenac, etc.) can trigger or cause a relapse of CD. The use of antibiotics can also play a role in activation of Crohn’s due to its effect on the good bacteria that resides in the gut. Dietary triggers may not be universal and may vary a lot from person to person, but it has been shown that high consumption of fiber from fruits and vegetables decreases the risk of CD, while higher animal protein intake seems to increase it.
How to get the diagnosis?
Laboratory blood tests can help to diagnose and evaluate the severity of Crohn’s disease. Your doctor can request blood tests to investigate the presence of antibodies and reactive proteins and also a blood count to check the level of white blood cells. These tests would give information about the level of inflammation in your intestine.
Colonoscopy is a helpful tool in the diagnosis of CD. It can help your doctor to evaluate the presence of lesions in the lining of the digestive tract. During the procedure, the doctor can also remove a tissue sample for analysis, to investigate the presence of inflammatory cells. Other exams may also be requested such as endoscopy and tomography.
It is fundamental for an accurate diagnosis that you get asked the right questions. It is easy for a non-experienced doctor to mistake CD by other gastrointestinal disorders like Ulcerative Colitis, IBS[Office2] , Celiac Disease and infections. Information about the nature, duration and severity of your symptoms will lead your doctor in the direction of the right diagnosis.
What is the treatment?
The goal of the treatment of CD is to reduce the symptoms and decrease the frequency of relapses. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and immune modulators to help lessen the inflammation. With your doctor's help, you can also introduce lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking or eating certain foods, based on your personal triggers.
Crohn's disease might be tricky to diagnose, and it may take a few adjustments until you find the perfect treatment for you. For that reason, it is essential to see a trustworthy and experienced physician to help you through your journey.
If you need to get started on therapy, you can contact Dr. Mario Rosenberg's team with any questions and concerns.
Contact us for a consultation!