heart disease can consume a person’s everyday life, so can the diagnosis of Crohn’s
disease. Although it may not be as well-known, more than 700,000 Americans
are affected by Crohn’s disease. Understanding Crohn’s disease
is an essential key to navigating the uncertainty that comes with a new
A type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease can irritate
and inflame any part of your digestive tract—from intake to output.
“It is a chronic illness with no cure, but thankfully treatment
can lead to remission,” says
Deborah Lindahl, NP-C,
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Gastroenterology. “The disease can affect anyone at any age, but it has greater likelihood
to develop in people who are in their 20s or 30s, experience an autoimmune
reaction, have a parent, sibling or other relative with IBD or smoke cigarettes.”
Other factors that might slightly increase the risk of developing Crohn’s
- Consuming a high-fat diet.
- Taking antibiotics, birth control pills or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs)—such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Know the signs and symptoms
Depending where along your digestive tract Crohn’s disease strikes
and the inflammation’s severity, you might develop common signs
and symptoms, such as abdominal pain or cramping, diarrhea or weight loss.
In addition, you might experience:
- Appetite loss
- Eye redness or pain
- Joint soreness or pain
- Red, tender skin bumps
Get the diagnosis and treatment you need
It’s important to see your primary care provider if you think you
might have Crohn’s disease so your provider can rule out other possible
causes for your signs and symptoms. “The first step in diagnosing
Crohn’s disease is discovering where along your intestinal tract
the inflammation and irritation are occurring,” explains Lindahl.
After taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam, your health
care provider might schedule:
- Lab tests (blood and stool)
- MRI or CT scans
- Intestinal endoscopy procedures, such as a colonoscopy
- An upper GI series
With a proper diagnosis, your provider can prescribe the best treatment
for your Crohn’s disease symptoms and complications. Possible complications
of the disease include:
- Abscesses—infected pockets of pus causing pain and swelling
- Anal fissures—small tears that might bleed, itch or cause pain
- Colon cancer if Crohn’s disease is in the large intestine
- Fistulas—abnormal tunnels between organs that can be infected
- Intestinal obstruction or bowel blockage
- Malnutrition from malabsorption issues
“Treatments for Crohn’s disease and its complications range
from special diets and nutritional supplements to medications and surgery.
By decreasing intestinal inflammation, preventing symptom outbreaks and
replenishing nutrients, you increase your chances of keeping Crohn’s
disease in remission,” says Lindahl.
Keeping a healthy lifestyle
Research shows that when people exercise, muscles release anti-inflammatory
chemicals that reduce gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. “Activity
also reduces musculoskeletal complications of Crohn’s, including
bone loss, joint pain, and posture issues, while easing stress,”
says Lindahl. “Although food doesn’t cause Crohn’s disease,
it can trigger flares. Because the disease can involve different areas
of the GI tract in different people, diet plans should be patient specific,” she adds.
Keeping follow up visits
Crohn’s disease requires frequent follow up visits to assess how
your current treatment is effecting or healing your gastrointestinal tract.
Patients experiencing digestive issues should talk with their health care
provider about the possibility of Crohn’s disease. To find a physician,
call 855-ASK-SGHS (855-275-7447) or visit