Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory bowel disease. This disease is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea with or without bleeding, and frequently with symptoms of malabsorption.

Female with stomach pain at office desk.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Our digestive system is comprised of a series of multiple organs with their critical and defined function in digestion of food, and efficient absorption of nutrients, as well as the elimination of certain chemicals and waste products of metabolism.

The large and small intestines are the main tubular components of the digestive system that are responsible for the absorption of ingested nutrients and water, before eliminating the waste product in the form of stool. There is a wide range of health issues and conditions that can develop in the intestines, among the most common of which is a group of inflammatory conditions, collectively known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease. One form of this condition is called Crohn’s disease, which tends to involve both small and large intestine. To properly manage and treat Crohn’s disease, you must understand what this disease is and the symptoms that typically come with it. 

Woman with Chrons Disease.

What Are The Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?

The many symptoms of Crohn’s disease typically develop on a gradual basis. However, patients can also have a significant worsening of conditions in weeks from the initial presentation. Over time, some of your symptoms may worsen in severity. Some of the first symptoms that you’ll experience when suffering from Crohn’s disease include:

  • Unexplained abdominal pain

  • General loss of appetite

  • Diarrhea/ altered bowel habits

  • Blood in the stool ( frequently)

  • Fatigue

  • Abdominal cramps

  • Frequent bowel movements

These symptoms are nonspecific and can be missed even by physicians initially as “Irritable bowel syndrome.” Other conditions such as food allergies, viral or bacterial gastrointestinal infections, or medications can also cause similar symptoms. 

We recommend further workup if these symptoms tend to linger for more than two weeks or in case of worsening despite treatment. 

As your disease progresses, it’s possible for the symptoms that you experience to worsen. For instance, you might start to experience worsening diarrhea or gastrointestinal bleeding, resultant dehydration, and anemia can cause low blood pressure, or severe fatigue, caused by anemia. There can also be associated inflammation around the skin or joints.

 Early disease characterization and initiation of treatment can avoid short and long term complications of this long term disease.

What Does Crohn’s Disease Refer to?

Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory bowel disease. This disease is characterized by abdominal pain, diarrhea with or without bleeding, and frequently with symptoms of malabsorption. Often there is a familial predisposition (family history of a similar disease or symptoms). Patients can have problems from obstruction of the gastrointestinal tracts, such as bowel obstruction of other manifestations outside the gastrointestinal tract. It can affect any portion of a person’s gastrointestinal tract, which extends from the anus to the mouth. However, it typically occurs in the colon and small intestine areas.

There is a poor understanding of causative factors, and we still lack a substantial amount of know-how of its causation. However, significant advancements have been accomplished in managing the disease and decreasing its long term sequelae. With new therapeutic agents, this disease can be effectively managed both for symptoms as well as long term complications.

Among the most notable aspects of Crohn’s disease is that it can vary substantially in severity and clinical manifestation. In mild cases, the patient may have infrequent diarrhea/alterations of bowel habit with/without abdominal pain, while in severe cases, patients will experience much more intense symptoms that can make it difficult to function from day to day. In many cases, it can be life-threatening in its acute presentation with the potential for long term complications.

If you experience any of the persistent symptoms of altered bowel habits, malabsorption, bleeding, or diarrhea, immediate medical attention will likely be necessary to ascertain if the condition is the presentation of Crohn’s disease.

What Causes​ Crohn’s Disease?

Presently, the causation of inflammatory bowel disease, precisely Crohn’s disease is not clearly elucidated. There is a well known genetic predisposition, as substantiated with much higher prevalence in family members of this condition. Some of the factors that are believed to play a part in disease development includes environmental, dietary, psychosocial, and background health of an individual. Nearly 20 percent of all individuals who have Crohn’s disease will have a family history of this disease. Some additional factors that can determine how severe your case of Crohn’s disease includes age of onset, smoking and obesity history, or distribution of disease in the GI tract such as rectal involvement. Long term sequelae of disease tend to correlate with disease duration and activity, the efficiency of treatment, and the involvement of small bowel. 

Many complications of this disease stem from a weakened immune system and altered gut structure and dysfunction of the gut barrier. Patients can develop various infections in the intestines that are caused by bacteria, viruses, and other parasites. The development of an infection can cause your symptoms to worsen and may result in you experiencing certain complications that will require medical attention. Some of the additional complications that you should look out for after you’ve developed Crohn’s disease include:

  • The development of painful ulcers in the digestive tract

  • An anal fissure/ abscess ( manifests with anorectal pain, bleeding, or discharge of mucus, pus, or stool.

  • Bowel obstruction symptoms, such as nausea/vomiting and crampy abdominal pain

  • Malnutrition if your body is unable to absorb the nutrients

When Should I Seek Medical Help?

While you should see your doctor if you experience symptoms as above, you should also schedule an appointment if you find that there are persistent alterations of bowel habits. Along with these changes. Some additional symptoms that should cause you to visit the doctor include unexplained fever, blood in stool, persistent abdominal pain, and/ or unexplained diarrhea.

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