Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. Inflammation, ulcers, and narrowing of the digestive tract occur because the body’s immune system is inappropriately attacking the lining of the digestive tract. Crohn’s Disease most commonly occurs in young people, but can also be seen later in life.
Many patients with Crohn’s Disease will have symptoms present for many years prior to diagnosis. The degree and nature of the symptoms is dependent upon the location of the disease in the gastrointestinal tract. Typical symptoms can include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Symptoms outside of the digestive tract may occur as well and include eye pain, skin rash, mouth ulcers, and arthritis. Patients with Crohn’s Disease are also at an increased risk for developing gallstones and kidney stones.
Crohn’s Disease is most commonly detected by performing a colonoscopy or x-ray imaging studies of the abdomen, such as an upper GI series, CT Scan, or MRI Scan. Blood tests may also be used to detect evidence of inflammation, anemia, and malnutrition, which may all be seen in patients with Crohn’s Disease.
There is no cure for Crohn’s Disease, but medications can be used to achieve remission and relieve symptoms. The specific medications used to treat Crohn’s Disease are dependent upon the disease location and severity. Dietary modification is often helpful in minimizing symptoms. Patients with narrowing of the digestive tract or active inflammation generally feel better when they consume a diet low in fiber. A variety of medications such as Mesalamine, corticosteroids, immunomodulator medications (Imuran, 6 Mercaptopurine, and Methotrexate), and biologic therapy (Remicade, Humira, Cimzia, Entyvio, Stelara, Xeljanz) can be used to achieve remission. In patients who fail to respond to medical therapy, surgery may be required to remove a diseased portion of the digestive tract; however, surgery is not curative and the disease will frequently recur over time.