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Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammation of parts of your digestive tract. It is most often found in the lower end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine, but it can occur anywhere in the digestive system. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Symptoms

People with Crohn's disease normally experience the following symptoms:

  • Cramps in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to move bowels even though bowels are empty
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite/weight loss

Less common symptoms include:

  • Constipation
  • Sores in the eyes
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Mouth ulcers

Risk factors

The exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your chance of getting the disease:

  • White people and those of eastern european jewish descent have a higher risk
  • Smoking
  • Environmental factors
  • Tendency of your body to overreact to normal bacteria in your intestines
  • Age (occurs most often in people age 15 - 35)

Detection and Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose Crohn's disease by performing a physical exam to check for a lump or tenderness in the abdomen, swollen joints or a skin rash. Tests may also be needed to confirm the diagnosis including a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, CT or MRI of the abdomen, barium enema, capsule endoscopy or enteroscopy.

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Treatment

Crohn's disease can be managed and treated in many ways:

  • Diet and nutrition. Eating a well-balance, healthy diet may help. If you have diarrhea, eat small meals throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and avoid foods that are high in fiber, fatty, greasy or fried.
  • Managing stress. Stress can worsen digestive problems. Your doctor can help you with tips on how to manage stress.
  • Medication. There are certain medications that can help you control Crohn's disease, such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs.
  • Surgery. If other treatments don't relieve your symptoms, surgery may be needed to remove portions of the damaged intestine. In some cases, the entire large intestine must be removed. Surgery may also be needed if you are experiencing bleeding, have an infection, have abnormal connections between the intestine and other parts of the body, or have a narrowing of the intestine.

Prognosis

There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but symptoms can be controlled through surgery and other treatments. You may experience periods of relief, followed by times when the symptoms flare up again.

For more information on Crohn's disease, visit the National Institute of Health.

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