Fort Worth Texas Gastroenterology

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract. Most commonly, Crohn’s affects your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine. However, the disease can affect any part of your digestive tract, from your mouth to your anus. Learn more about your digestive system and how it works.

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis are other common types of IBD.

Crohn’s disease most often begins gradually and can become worse over time. You may have periods of remission that can last for weeks or years.

Who is more likely to develop Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease can develop in people of any age and is more likely to develop in people

  • between the ages of 20 and 29
  • who have a family member, most often a sibling or parent, with IBD
  • who smoke cigarettes

What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?

Complications of Crohn’s disease can include the following:

Intestinal obstruction. Crohn’s disease can thicken the wall of your intestines. Over time, the thickened areas of your intestines can narrow, which can block your intestines. A partial or complete intestinal obstruction, also called a bowel blockage, can block the movement of food or stool through your intestines.

Fistulas. In Crohn’s disease, inflammation can go through the wall of your intestines and create tunnels, or fistulas. Fistulas are abnormal passages between two organs, or between an organ and the outside of your body. Fistulas may become infected.

Abscesses. Inflammation that goes through the wall of your intestines can also lead to abscesses. Abscesses are painful, swollen, pus-filled pockets of infection.

Anal fissures. Anal fissures are small tears in your anus that may cause itching, pain, or bleeding.

Ulcers. Inflammation anywhere along your digestive tract can lead to ulcers or open sores in your mouth, intestines, anus, or perineum.

Malnutrition. Malnutrition develops when your body does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function.

Inflammation in other areas of your body. You may have inflammation in your joints, eyes, and skin.

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?

The most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease are

  • diarrhea
  • cramping and pain in your abdomen
  • weight loss

Other symptoms include:

  • anemia
  • eye redness or pain
  • feeling tired
  • fever
  • joint pain or soreness
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • skin changes that involve red, tender bumps under the skin

Your symptoms may vary depending on the location and severity of your inflammation.

Some research suggests that stress, including the stress of living with Crohn’s disease, can make symptoms worse. Also, some people may find that certain foods can trigger or worsen their symptoms.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

Doctors aren’t sure what causes Crohn’s disease. Experts think the following factors may play a role in causing Crohn’s disease.

Autoimmune reaction

One cause of Crohn’s disease may be an autoimmune reaction—when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body. Experts think bacteria in your digestive tract can mistakenly trigger your immune system. This immune system response causes inflammation, leading to symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

Genes

Crohn’s disease sometimes runs in families. Research has shown that if you have a parent or sibling with Crohn’s disease, you may be more likely to develop the disease. Experts continue to study the link between genes and Crohn’s disease.

Other factors

Some studies suggest that other factors may increase your chance of developing Crohn’s disease:

  • Smoking may double your chance of developing Crohn’s disease
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Antibiotics
  • Birth-control pills 6 may slightly increase the chance of developing Crohn’s disease
  • A high-fat diet may also slightly increase your chance of getting Crohn’s disease
  • Stress and eating certain foods do not cause Crohn’s disease

How do doctors diagnose Crohn’s disease?

Doctors typically use a combination of tests to diagnose Crohn’s disease. Your doctor will also ask you about your medical history—including medicines you are taking—and your family history and will perform a physical exam.

  • Physical Exam
  • Diagnostic Tests

Your doctor may use the following tests to help diagnose Crohn’s disease:

How do we treat Crohn’s disease?

Doctors treat Crohn’s disease with medicines, bowel rest, and surgery.

No single treatment works for everyone with Crohn’s disease. The goals of treatment are to decrease the inflammation in your intestines, to prevent flare-ups of your symptoms, and to keep you in remission.

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