Crohn’s Disease Overview: Symptoms, Complications, Causes and Treatment Options
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that causes inflammation within the digestive tract of a patient. The prevalence of the condition has increased significantly over the last few decades, especially from the 1970s. Recent studies have shown that for every 100,000 individuals, approximately 9.2 would show symptoms that match the criteria for diagnosis with Crohn’s disease1. Data has also suggested that a new diagnosis of the condition is most common among patients aged between 15 and 29.
Various parts of the patient’s digestive tract can be affected by the inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease, which is why symptoms may vary from one patient to another patient. While it is currently not possible to completely cure this inflammatory bowel disease, there are many treatment options available that can assist with managing the symptoms caused by the condition.
Symptoms Of Crohn’s Disease
An important aspect related to Crohn’s disease is the fact that this particular condition may affect more than just the gastrointestinal tract. Even though digestive issues are usually some of the first symptoms that develop, patients often find that they start to experience symptoms outside of their digestive system as the disease progresses.
Common symptoms that a patient may experience when they develop Crohn’s disease may include:
- Blood may sometimes be present in the stool
- Fatigue and fever are also common symptoms
- The patient may experience weight loss and a reduced appetite
- The region around the patient’s anus may become painful; drainage may also occur in the area
- The patient’s abdomen may become painful
Some patients may also develop mouth sores when they have Crohn’s disease. The condition may also cause inflammation to occur in the joints and the eyes. Some patients experience skin inflammation, as well as inflammation in the bile ducts and the liver.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Crohn’s Disease
While the specific causes of Crohn’s disease are not clearly understood yet, many advancements have already been made. Scientists have identified a range of risk factors that make a patient more likely to develop this particular condition.
In one scientific paper2, medical experts explain that smoking may increase the risk of Crohn’s disease by as much as 100%, making the patient two times as likely to develop the condition.
There are other risk factors that have been associated with the condition as well. A family history of Crohn’s disease seems to increase the likelihood of a patient developing the condition. Furthermore, some studies have found that factors such as age, ethnicity, and the geographical location of the patient also plays a role in their risk for Crohn’s disease. Patients who frequently rely on the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Naproxen Sodium, Ibuprofen, and Diclofenac Sodium, are also at a higher risk of experiencing an increased severity in their Crohn’s disease symptoms.
Possible Complications Of Crohn’s Disease
It is important to understand that Crohn’s disease can cause various complications, depending on how severe the condition is, what parts of the digestive tract is affected, and how well the patient’s condition is managed. The complications that may be caused by Crohn’s disease include:
- Bowel obstruction may occur
- Ulcers can develop due to the chronic inflammation
- Fistulas can develop
- The skin of the anus may develop a small tear, where an infection can then occur, leading to a condition known as anal fissure
- Patients may develop nutritional imbalances and deficiencies
- Colon cancer risk is increased
Current Treatment Options For Crohn’s Disease
There are many ways to treat Crohn’s disease, even though the disease cannot be completely cured. Medical scientists are constantly working on advancing research on treatment techniques to find new ways to target the condition, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk of frequent recurrences of the symptoms.
One paper3 suggests that patients should undergo appropriate tests to determine if they have nutritional deficiencies. These issues should then be targeted in their treatment plan. Depending on the severity of the condition, pharmaceutical treatment options may include the use of antibiotics, corticosteroids, 6-mercaptopurine agents, anti-tumor necrosis factor agents, and azathioprine.
In more serious cases of Crohn’s disease, especially where complications have occurred, hospitalization may sometimes be required, and a physician may recommend the patient undergo surgery.
Inflammation that occurs in the digestive system can be caused by Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition that can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloody stool, and fatigue. Treatments that have been made available help to control the inflammation, while dietary changes can also bring about positive change in the gastrointestinal tract among patients with diagnosed Crohn’s disease.
1 O. Hovde, B.A. Moum. Epidemiology and clinical course of Crohn’s disease: Results from observational studies. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 21 April 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3332285/
2 S.S. Mahid, K.S. Minor, R.E. Soto, C.A. Hornung, S. Galandiuk. Smoking and inflammatory bowel disease: a meta-analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. November 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17120402/
3 T. Wilkins, K. Jarvis, J. Patel. Diagnosis and management of Crohn’s disease. American Family Physician Journal. 15 December 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22230271