We all have some disruption in our digestive system from time to time, whether it happens because of a virus or you simply ate something that isn’t sitting well. If you’re struggling with digestive issues frequently, though, it could be a sign of a condition called Crohn’s disease.
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What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a specific type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease in which your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In the case of Crohn’s disease, that healthy tissue is in the digestive tract.
Crohn’s disease can cause swelling and inflammation in different parts of the digestive tract for different people. It typically involves the small intestine and potentially parts of the large intestine. In some people, inflammation from Crohn’s disease affects one area of the digestive tract, while it affects multiple areas in other people.
When it isn’t controlled, Crohn’s disease can have a significant impact on your daily life because of the symptoms it creates. Unfortunately, it can also lead to potentially serious and life-threatening complications like bowel obstructions, ulcers, malnutrition, colon cancer, and blood clots.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease can look different from person to person, but the telltale symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic and severe diarrhea
- Weight loss and reduced appetite
- Blood in the stool
- Mouth sores
- Pain or drainage at or near the anus
Keep in mind that any of these symptoms can happen to anyone from time to time, but if you’re having these symptoms regularly and severely, it could be a sign of Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease might also appear with other conditions as well, like kidney stones, iron-deficient anemia, and delayed sexual development. People with Crohn’s disease may also have inflammation in other areas of the body like their skin, eyes, joints, liver, and bile ducts.
What Causes Crohn’s Disease?
Despite the resources and decades that have been spent on researching Crohn’s disease, the medical community hasn’t discovered a specific cause for Crohn’s disease. We do know that it seems to have a genetic link because it tends to run in families.
A leading theory is that some people are genetically predisposed to the condition, and then they come into contact with some specific virus or bacterium that sparks an unusual immune response and triggers Crohn’s disease. Regardless of the cause, most people with Crohn’s disease are diagnosed in their early adulthood or younger, typically before age 30.
Potential Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that doesn’t have a known cure, meaning that if you have this condition, you probably always will. Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments for Crohn’s disease that can help to manage your symptoms and potentially put your Crohn’s disease into remission. With treatment, many people with Crohn’s disease lead healthy, normal lives.
The best treatment for your Crohn’s disease will depend on the details of your condition and your medical history, but let’s look at some of the typical treatment options.
In treating Crohn’s disease, biologics are medications that target specific proteins produced by your immune system. The goal is to control certain functions of your immune system so it stops attacking digestive tissue.
There are several biologics available for Crohn’s disease, including Entyvio, Humira, Remicade, Cimzia, Stelara, and Skyrizi. Your healthcare provider will be able to determine which one is the right fit for you, and it may take a trial-and-error process to see how your body responds to different medications.
The symptoms of Crohn’s disease stem from the inflammation that occurs when your immune system attacks your digestive tract. To minimize symptoms, one approach is to use anti-inflammatory medications. For people with Crohn’s disease, this is usually done with corticosteroids like prednisone or budesonide.
Immune Suppressing Medications
If biologics aren’t able to address the immune system functions that are affecting your digestive tissue, another option is to suppress your immune system altogether. This means that your immune system wouldn’t be strong enough to have an impact on your digestive tract. The flip side, though, is that your immune system wouldn’t be able to fight off illnesses very well either, so common illnesses like the flu, the common cold, and COVID-19 could become more severe.
Crohn’s disease can create a variety of complications, and those complications include fistulas and abscesses that can become serious. Antibiotics can help to keep these infections under control.
Lowering Risk Factors
In addition to taking medications that manage your Crohn’s disease, your healthcare provider will also counsel you about changes you can make to your lifestyle to keep your risk factors at a minimum. Specifically, there are some factors that have been found to make Crohn’s disease worse or increase the chances for severe complications.
The top factors include smoking cigarettes, using NSAID pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen, and having excessive stress. Your provider will discuss these risk factors with you and, as necessary, help you find ways to minimize your risk for Crohn’s disease complications.
What to Do if You Suspect You May Have Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is a potentially serious condition that has a significant impact on people’s daily lives, affecting both their quality of life and their long-term health. With the help of a knowledgeable physician and targeted, high-quality medications, though, it can often be managed well so you can get back to living life on your terms.
If you’ve been struggling with potential symptoms of Crohn’s disease, or if you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and want your best treatment options, connect an SRx pharmacy nearest you, and we’ll help you get in control of your health.