What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition of the digestive tract that affects children and adults. The cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. The disease tends to run in families.

Common features of Crohn’s disease include mouth sores, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, and fever. Patients can also have problems outside of the digestive tract, including a skin rash, joint pain, eye redness, and, less commonly, liver problems.

Which part of the digestive system is affected?

Although Crohn’s disease is usually chronic, medical and surgical treatment can help control the course of the disease, allowing many patients to experience long periods of symptom-free remission.

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract but primarily affect the last part of the small intestine) and the colon, producing ileitis (inflammation of the ileum) and colitis (inflammation of the colon). Inflammation in these areas can lead to the formation of abnormal passages or fistulas between skin and intestines, perforation of the intestinal wall, or narrowing of the digestive tract (stricture) and obstruction.

How does the disease behave?

Crohn’s disease usually follows a pattern when the condition worsens and improves. The severity of the symptoms fluctuates unpredictably over time. Patients are likely to experience flare-ups in between intervals of remission or reduced symptoms Treatment can help drive active disease into inactive disease

How is it treated?

Many different drugs are used to treat Crohn’s disease. The choice of medications will depend upon the area of the digestive tract affected by the disease and the symptoms. The following are of commonly used medications. 

  • 5-aminosalicylates
  • Antibiotics 
  • Steroids
  • Immunomodulator drugs 
  • Biologics

Various screening tests for colorectal cancer have been reported. Annual faecal occult blood testing (FOBT), barium enema, sigmoidoscopy and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy). However, current evidence suggests that these alternatives may not be as effective and reliable as annual FOBT or colonoscopy in large-scale population screening.

Dietary recommendations

There is a lot of research on diet in Crohn’s disease. Consultation with a dietician is very useful to improve nutrition and outcomes.

Other measures 

One of the most important treatments for Crohn’s is to avoid becoming malnourished. Smoking worsens Crohn’s disease and must be avoided. Non steroidal antiinflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen) should generally be avoided since they can worsen the disease.

Surgery  

Medical treatment can help control the symptoms and complications of Crohn’s disease and may delay the need for surgery.
Surgery is usually used as a last resort since it does not cure the disease, although in some patients it may be the fastest way to restore health.

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