More than half a million Americans have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Typically, Crohn’s affects the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. However, it can affect any part of the GI tract, from the mouth to the rectum.
No one knows for certain what causes Crohn’s disease, but the latest research indicates it may be a combination of environmental factors, genetics, and the body’s autoimmune system. People who have a family member – sibling or parent – with Crohn’s are more likely to develop the disease, as are those who smoke.
Crohn’s disease can occur in people of any age, but symptoms most frequently develop between the ages of 20 and 29.
Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s
The symptoms a person experiences from Crohn’s can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and where it occurs in the digestive tract. The most common signs and symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps/pain and unexplained weight loss. Some people may experience additional symptoms, including:
• Feeling tired
• Nausea/loss of appetite
Diagnosing Crohn’s disease
The most important diagnostic tool is you! It’s not always easy to talk to your doctor about digestive issues, but it is important. Letting Crohn’s go untreated can lead to much bigger problems, including bowel obstruction, fistulas, anal fissures, ulcers, inflammation in other areas of the body and malnutrition.
People with Crohn’s are at higher risk for developing colon cancer, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about regular screenings.
Your doctor will ask you questions about your medical and family history and conduct a physical exam. Lab tests may be performed along with other diagnostic tests, including:
• An upper GI series, which shows the condition of your esophagus and stomach.
• Colonoscopy, which examines the lower part of your digestive tract, including the colon and parts of the small intestine.
• Video capsule endoscopy
• CT scan of the abdominal area
Treating Crohn’s disease
Although there is no cure for Crohn’s, the condition can usually be kept under control. Sometimes surgery is required to treat more severe cases.
There is no evidence to suggest that diet plays a role in developing Crohn’s disease, but it is known that good nutrition can help manage the symptoms. Patients may be advised to avoid carbonated drinks, popcorn, vegetable skins, nuts and other high-fiber foods. Eating smaller meals more often, drinking more liquids and keeping a food diary to pinpoint triggers may be recommended.
Medications may help reduce inflammation, and can treat mild to moderate symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Corticosteroids may be used to suppress the immune system and in cases of moderate to severe cases of Crohn’s. These drugs are only used for short periods of time. Immunomodulators and biologic therapy may also be used.
If medications, dietary changes and conservative treatments do not eliminate the symptoms of Crohn’s, surgery may be required. In the most common procedure, the surgeon removes the diseased portion of the intestine, or bowel, as a planned, non-emergent surgery. Emergency surgery may be required if the intestine gets perforated or blocked, or if a patient has heavy internal bleeding.
The experts at King’s Daughters Medical Specialties – Gastroenterology provide care for all types of gastrointestinal diseases, including Crohn’s. For more information, please call the practice at (606) 327-1760.
Gastroenterologists specialize in the treatment of diseases and disorders of the digestive system, including Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, colorectal cancer, stomach ulcers, chronic constipation and diarrhea, GERD and
Cheryl Bascom, M.D.,
earned her medical degree from the University of West Indies in Jamaica and completed residency and fellowship training at Bronx Lebanon Hospital in New York. She is board-certified in
Arthur Gaing, M.D.,
earned his medical degree at the Institute of Medicine in Rangoon, Burma and completed his residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital and North General Hospitals in New York. His fellowship in gastroenterology was completed atMt. Sinai/Bronx VA Hospitals, also in New York.
Garfield Grandison, M.D.,
earned his medical degree at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, and completed residency at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. His fellowship training was completed at the University of Kentucky. He is board certified in gastroenterology.
Rajkumar Warrier, M.D.,
completed medical school at the University of Kerala, India. His internship, residency and fellowship training was completed at Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is board certified in gastroenterology.
KDMS Gastroenterology | Medical Plaza A, 617 23rd St., Suite 425 | Ashland, Ky. | (606) 327-1760