Crohn’s disease is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) which causes inflammation of the large bowel. It inflates the lining of the bowels, sometimes all the layers, which can lead to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea or even malnutrition. Crohn’s disease is more or less like it’s sister disease Ulcerative Colitis, another IBD, both can be painful and debilitating, and may lead to life threatening complications. There is no complete cure to Crohn’s disease, however, some therapies lead to reduce its symptoms and patients are able to lead a normal life with much less symptoms.
The most commonly affected areas are ileum (Small intestine) and colon (large intestine). It has two manifestations:
1) Stenosis: It may erode only the inner most lining of bowel and occlude the lumen; hence, stenosis.
2) Fistula: It may affect all the linings of the bowel wall and create a hole in it: hence, a fistula is formed.
Crohn’s disease has diverse signs and symptoms, when active; else it may go to a silent phase called remission. You can tell the stage of disease by the symptoms, sometimes late symptoms manifest early in disease, while other times it’s the opposite. When active, the disease may show following symptoms:
(a) Diarrhea: It may be the only sign of crohn’s. It develops because when it affects the bowel lining, the dying cells secrete a large amount of watery fluid which bowel fails to absorb back, hence you develop diarrhea.
(b) Abdominal pain and cramping: They usually accompany diarrhea. This is an after effect of ulceration. Ulcers after healing produce scars which occlude the lumen and disturb the normal bowel movements. This makes you feel abdominal cramps and pain.
(c) Bloody stools: It can be seen in three types. (i) Bright red blood drops, (ii) diffuse blood or (iii) Occult blood (which you can’t see)
(d) Ulcers: They aren’t only limited to the Crohn’s disease affected are, but they can be seen in whole digestive tract during the active disease, even in mouth resembling canker sores.
(e) Decreased appetite and weight loss: Affected bowel leads to inflammation which in turn decreases your appetite, and if you eat it makes the digestive process much slower and painful, which in turn leads to weight loss.
(f) Other symptoms:
(iv) Eye inflammation
(v) Inflammation of the liver or bile duct
(vi) Mouth sores
(vii) Skin diseases
Complications: The most common complication of Crohn’s disease is perforation.
Treatment: Other than medical therapies, the only complete remedy of Crohn’s disease is the surgical resection of effected bowel segment in the early stages of disease.