Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by Crohn’s disease, unfortunately there is still a lack of awareness about this very painful and debilitating disease.
Crohn’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes inflammation of the digestive system and painful swelling that extends deep into the affected organ. This swelling causes severe pain and can also result in a number of other painful symptoms.
Unfortunately, the cause of Crohn’s disease hasn’t been determined yet, although several theories do exist. The most prevalent theory is that the immune system attacks the digestive system due to a case of mistaken identity. The immune system thinks that food and other stuff that travels through the digestive track is bad and attacks it, causing the swelling. This swelling leads to abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, and possible bleeding.
Diagnosing Crohn’s disease is a difficult process because its symptoms closely mimic those of irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Another possible reason for mis-diagnosis is a lack of awareness about the disease. While trying to get a firm diagnosis patients may be required to take tests ranging from blood tests to biopsies to colonoscopies.
When doctors treat Crohn’s disease they have three priorities: to control inflammation, ensure proper nutrition, and to reduce symptoms. Some frequently used treatment options include medication, surgery, and supplements. Medication is mainly used to control symptoms although there are a few new drugs designed to stop the immune system from causing inflammation. Unfortunately complications from Crohn’s disease frequently result in surgery once medication is no longer effective. Severe cases may result in the removal of the large intestine and it’s replacement with a waste bag attached to the abdomen. Those who receive this procedure are frequently able to lead symptom free lives the rest of their lives although for a high price.
Crohn’s disease affects the lifestyle of those it afflicts in many different ways. Most patients can lead successful lives but they have a very difficult time. It can limit activity due to dietary limitations and the risk of anemia and can also decrease appetite, cause stress, and can cause embarrassment due to some of the symptoms (mainly diarrhea). Fortunately, Crohn’s disease frequently goes into remission for varying amounts of time although it nearly always returns with a vengeance.
Next time you meet someone with Crohn’s disease, remember that now you know a little bit about their disease and the many different difficulties it causes.