Crohn’s Disease Testing and Treatment Options
What Is Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which causes chronic and often severe irritation and inflammation in the digestive tract. Although Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (from the mouth to the anus), the disease most commonly affects the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. Crohn’s disease is different from another type of IBD, ulcerative colitis, which causes similar symptoms to Crohn’s, but only affects the colon (large intestine).
Approximately 700,000 people in the United States have Crohn’s disease, and while people of any age can develop the condition, patients are commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35.
The Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic & Endoscopy Center team specializes in helping patients who struggle with Crohn’s disease. Contact our offices to schedule your appointment: call (503) 229-7137 or contact us online today!
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
The causes of Crohn’s disease are still relatively unknown. Most researchers believe that a combination of factors drive the disease’s development, including:
- Immune System Dysfunction: An autoimmune reaction can occur when bacteria in the gut cause the immune system to attack its own cells. When this happens, the white blood cells build up in the lining of the gut, triggering harmful inflammation that leads to Crohn’s disease.
- Genetics: Up to 20 percent of people with Crohn’s disease have at least one family member who suffers from a form of inflammatory bowel disease.
- Environmental and Lifestyle Factors: Elevated stress levels, poor dietary habits, toxins, cigarette smoking, and the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may increase your risk of developing Crohn’s disease and contribute to a heightened immune response.
Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease symptoms vary depending on which part of the digestive tract is inflamed. Left untreated, symptoms may progress and worsen over time. Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Low energy and fatigue
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Night sweats
- Nausea/ vomiting
- Joint pain
- Inflammation of the skin, eyes, joints, liver, or bile ducts
Stress, in particular, can exacerbate these symptoms.
What are the Risks Associated with Crohn’s Disease?
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease should not be ignored since it can worsen and cause more health complications that impact not only the gut, but also other organs. Risks associated with Crohn’s disease include colon cancer, liver disease, and anal fissures (small tears in your anus that can cause irritation and bleeding). Other complications of untreated Crohn’s disease may include:
- Intestinal obstruction: Crohn’s disease can thicken and narrow the walls of your intestines, preventing food and stool from passing through properly.
- Malnutrition: Due to a malfunctioning intestine, the body may not be able to absorb the necessary amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- Ulcers and fistulas: Inflammation can cause open sores to develop along the digestive tract and even extend through the intestinal wall.
Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
If you believe that you have symptoms of Crohn’s disease, several different testing options are available to you at Northwest Gastroenterology.
To confirm a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, evalutation may include:
- Blood tests to determine sedimentation rates, protein levels, mineral levels, and red and white blood cell counts
- CT scans, MRI scans, or endoscopies to determine the location and severity of the disease
- Colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopy, which use a long, flexible viewing tube to view the intestine directly
- Biopsies to take samples of the infected tissue for further study
Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but treatment is available to control and manage the symptoms effectively and to help reduce associated risks (i.e. colon cancer). The goal of treatment is to achieve and maintain remission (controlling the inflammation associated with Crohn’s disease symptoms).
To achieve remission, treatment for Crohn’s disease ranges from anti-inflammatory drugs like corticosteroids and oral 5-aminosalicylates to immune system suppressors such as adalimumab and methotrexate.
If medications fail to provide symptoms relief or become ineffective over time, surgery may be necessary. Surgery may include the partial (small bowel resection) or total (colectomy) removal of the colon. In some cases, the colon and rectum are both removed (proctocolectomy). Unfortunately, surgery is not a cure, and long-term management with medications may still be required. Northwest Gastroenterology is also proud to offer a comprehensive infusion center at our Westside Clinic to help treat your Crohn’s disease.
No one should have to suffer through Crohn’s disease alone. At Northwest Gastroenterology Clinic, we provide exceptional care to help you live a normal and healthy life. To schedule an appointment at our Westside or Eastside clinic, please call (503) 229-7137 or request an appointment online.