Crohn’s disease is inflammation of any part of the digestive track. It is often found in the intestines where the small intestine and the colon meet, causing pain and discomfort.
While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, this autoimmune disorder is linked to a problem with the body’s immune system response. Instead of protecting the body, the immune system’s overactive response causes chronic inflammation.
Crohn’s disease may occur at any age, but typically affects people between ages 15 to 35 – especially those with these risk factors:
- Family history of Crohn’s disease
- Jewish ancestry
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Fever, fatigue
- Pain when passing stool or persistent diarrhea
- Appetite loss or unintentional weight loss
- Barium enema
- Computed tomography (CT scan) of the abdomen
- Endoscopy, including capsule endoscopy
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the abdomen
- Upper GI series
- A stool culture may be done to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
There is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, but the following diet and lifestyle changes can help manage symptoms:
- Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet with small meals throughout the day
- Drink plenty of water, also in small amounts throughout the day
- Avoid high-fiber foods (brand, beans, nuts, seeds, popcorn, etc), fatty/greasy foods and foods that cause gas
- Manage stress
Over-the-counter medication, such as loperamide (Imodium) and aspirin, can be used to treat diarrhea and pain. Fiber supplements may also help. Other medications may be prescribed, including:
- Aminosalicylates (5-ASAs) to help control mild to moderate symptoms. Some forms of the drug are taken by mouth; others must be given rectally.
- Corticosteroids (prednisone and methylprednisolone) are used to treat moderate to severe Crohn’s disease. They may be taken by mouth or inserted into the rectum.
- Medicines such as azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine quiet the immune system’s reaction.
- Antibiotics may be prescribed for abscesses or fistulas.
For patients who do not respond to medication, a type of surgery called bowel resection may be needed to remove a damaged or diseased part of the intestine or to drain an abscess. However, removing the diseased portion of the intestine does not cure the condition.