Every day, approximately 3 million Americans suffer from Crohn’s disease. This health condition can significantly affect daily life, and it can leave you struggling with its symptoms, effects, and changes for many years. But when Crohn’s disease first begins, it can be tricky to assess. Are you living with Crohn’s, or could your symptoms be a sign of another inflammatory illness? That’s why it’s so important to know the signs and symptoms of this condition. If you’re looking to learn more about Crohn’s disease, search online today.
Anyone can develop Crohn’s disease, and it can appear later in life. As a condition that primarily affects adults, everyone should be aware of their risk for Crohn’s and how it appears when it first begins. Search online to see if Crohn’s disease is something you should be concerned about.
How Crohn’s Disease Starts
Crohn’s disease is one specific type of an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). There are a number of different conditions that are classified as IBD, but Crohn’s isn’t limited to the bowel alone. Crohn’s can actually affect any part of the GI tract from the mouth to the anus – it’s simply most common in the small bowel and colon.
Currently, doctors don’t know what exactly causes Crohn’s disease. It’s believed that the condition has a connection to the body’s immune system. Typically, the immune system attacks and fights off foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. However, in someone with Crohn’s disease, the immune system mistakenly thinks harmless GI tract bacteria are foreign invaders, and it attacks.
Essentially, the immune system’s response causes chronic inflammation. And that can lead to the symptoms and discomfort Crohn’s disease causes.
Are You At Risk for Crohn’s Disease?
Anyone can develop Crohn’s disease. Because the exact cause of this type of IBD is still unknown, it’s unclear who specifically might be most at risk for developing it. Men and women seem to be equally at risk, and while diet and stress can aggravate Crohn’s, they don’t necessarily cause it.
But research has shown that certain people with certain risk factors may have a higher chance of developing Crohn’s. These risk factors include:
- Being between the ages of 15 and 35 years old.
- Having a family member or close relative who has Crohn’s disease.
- An eastern European background, particularly Jewish individuals of European descent.
- Having parents who have IBD.
- Living in a developed country.
- Residing in an urban city or town.
While some of these risk factors may be able to be controlled, there’s no guarantee that you can eliminate your risk for Crohn’s disease. If you’re worried about your risk level, search online to find a doctor who can assess your risk and offer advice.
Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Because Crohn’s disease can affect the entire GI tract, its symptoms can be quite varied. You might experience different symptoms if your Crohn’s primarily affects your small or large intestine, or if it’s centered in your colon.
Symptoms can also vary in severity. You might experience mild symptoms; you might experience severe symptoms. Typically, symptoms come on gradually, but in some cases they begin suddenly.
Crohn’s symptoms can even come and go. You’ll experience flares, or periods of time in which the disease is active. You may also experience inactive periods where you feel fine and have no noticeable symptoms.
When your Crohn’s disease is active, you might experience symptoms like:
- Blood in your stool.
- Cramping or pain in your abdomen.
- Mouth sores.
- Pain or drainage near the anus (often caused by a fistula).
- A fever.
- Less of an appetite.
- Weight loss.
Additional symptoms may occur, either over time or if you’re dealing with significant inflammation. These can include:
- Inflammation in the skin, eyes, and joints.
- Kidney stones.
- Inflammation in the liver or bile ducts.
If you’re noticing changes in your bowel habits or are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s time to see a doctor. You can search online to find doctors who specialize in Crohn’s disease or IBD in your area. With the right doctor, you can get a diagnosis and begin creating a treatment plan.
How Crohn’s Disease is Treated
Treating Crohn’s disease typically requires a multi-pronged approach. No one treatment works best – and no one treatment is good for all individuals with Crohn’s. Treatment varies depending on your symptoms, any complications you have, how you respond to different treatments, and other important factors.
Common treatments include:
- Prescription medications like corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and biologic therapies that work to stop or calm inflammation.
- Bowel rest, which changes your diet to allow your bowel and intestines time to calm down or heal.
- Dietary and nutritional changes, which helps avoid aggravation and flares with everyday food changes.
- Surgery to remove damage or relieve blockages.
No matter what type of treatments your doctor recommends, it may take a mix of different approaches. Crohn’s can be a lasting condition that requires management throughout your life, and there is no cure. If you’re looking to determine whether or not you’re living with Crohn’s disease, find a doctor in your area who can assess your symptoms and health.