We eat food to get nutrients like carbohydrates and protein. These nutrients aide in keeping our body running. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract processes that food, absorbs the necessary nutrients and gets rid of any waste. The gastrointestinal tract begins with the opening of your mouth and ends with your anus. It includes your esophagus, stomach and intestines. With Crohn’s disease the body’s immune system begins attacking the healthy cells in the gastrointestinal tract. This causes inflammation. Inflammatory bowel disease, is a category of bowel disorders that includes both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is often found in a section of the small intestine called the ileum, but it can happen anywhere in the gastrointestinal system from the mouth to the anus. Crohn’s usually causes inflammation patches in the digestive system. It is most commonly found near the end of the small intestine or colon. It can develop both places. With Crohn’s disease, the digestive system work in the normal way to push food along as your system digests it. During this time the intestines become irritated and inflamed. The inflammation usually happens in patches along the digestive tract skipping areas of healthy tissue in between.
Unlike other types of inflammation that heal, Crohn’s disease cause chronic inflammation. It can also cause inflammation that lasts for a long time and keep reoccurring. Crohn’s affect the entire thickness of the bowel that causes other problems to develop. These problems include Fistulas. Fistulas are tunnel like sores. Bowel obstructions can also occur. These are narrowed sections of intestine that block the passage of food. Each and every person with Crohn’s experience is different. Some people experience symptoms more often than others. Some may not have any symptoms at all.
Some common symptoms with Crohn’s are diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, rectal bleeding, weight loss, abscesses, fistulas and intestinal obstruction. Crohn’s disease may be associated with additional symptom like joint inflammation, eye inflammation and skin inflammation. There are several stages of Crohn’s disease. The first state is Mild to Moderate Crohn’s disease. People with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease are able to digest food normally without fevers, stomach pain, dehydration, blockages in their intestines or losing more than 10% of their body weight.
Moderate to Severe Crohn’s Disease is noted when people do not respond to treatment for mild to moderate Crohn’s disease. They also have high fevers, stomach pain or tenderness, significant weight loss, occasional nausea or vomiting or anemia. Severe Crohn’s disease continues to have symptoms in spite taking steroids. These symptoms can include high fever, persistent vomiting, blockages in their intestines, or an abscess. A person with Crohn’s disease need to be prepared for flare-ups. Flare-ups tend to happen when the symptoms of Crohn’s return.
Symptoms normally return after a period of remission or low disease activity. Flare-ups can occur under any circumstance or any time. That is the reason the goal Crohn’s treatment is to bring patients to a state of remission. This state is a disease free or limited disease state. Some disease management tips to minimize flare-ups are to always take your medication as directed by your doctor. The risk for a future flare-up is reduced when the patient take their medication consistently. A patient should not treat their Crohn’s flare up with over the counter medications without checking with their doctor.
Some over the counter medications are known to cause ulceration, or sores, in the intestinal tract. The patient should not take antibiotics until you check with their doctor. Come antibiotics are known to cause the disease to flare up. A patient should not smoke. Smoking can make Crohn’s disease more active and can interfere with the remission process. If surgery is performed, the illness can recur sooner in smokers than in nonsmokers. Crohn’s disease can affect anyone at any age. It is usually first diagnosed in people in their teens and twenties. It tends to affect people of both sexes equally.
Some groups including blacks, whites and Jews are diagnosed more frequently than Asians and Hispanics. People that have family members with Crohn’s disease may more likely have it themselves. It can be difficult to diagnose Crohn’s disease. People who have not been diagnosed with Crohn’s often have symptoms like unexplained weight loss, stomach pain and cramping and blood in their stool. A series of tests is normally ordered by a general practitioner or gastroenterologist to determine the cause of these symptoms. These tests include blood tests to examine a variety of factors that may lead to signs of the disease.
A physician may particularly conduct a complete blood count to check for an elevated white blood cell count or low hemoglobin count. These two blood tests are routinely requested for patients with Crohn’s disease. Stool examinations are another test that is ordered. A small sample of a patient’s stool is examined for certain parasites, blood, bacteria, or viral components that might indicate or rule out Crohn’s. Barium X-ray checks for abnormalities. The patient drinks barium. This is a fluid that makes the gastrointestinal tract show up during an x-ray.
A CT (computed tomography) test can also be ordered. It is also known as a CAT scan. This test uses a scanning machine to look at the patient’s internal systems. The CT scan is used to detect abscesses which are localized infections. It can also detect fistulas. These are abnormal tunnels between 2 hollow organs in the gastrointestinal tract. An example could be the colon and the vagina. Endoscopic tests are also ordered. The physician uses a long tube with a fiber optic camera attached to one end. This is snaked through the intestine to see the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.
This endoscope includes a tool that allows the doctor to take a small sample of the bowel wall that can be examined later in a lab for evidence of Crohn’s disease. Nonbiologic treatments for Crohn’s disease include aminosalicylates, also known as 5-ASA’s or anti-flammatories. These medications can be effective in achieving and maintaining remission for people with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease. Patients that stop their 5-ASA’s are likely to suffer a relapse. These medications should not be stopped without first speaking with a doctor. Antibiotics are also used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease.
They help reduce harmful intestinal bacteria and suppress the intestine’s immune response. Antibiotics are prescribed to heal fistulas and abscesses in Crohn’s patients. Corticosteroids are treatments used for Crohn’s disease tha help reduce the inflammation and are mostly used during acute situations. Physicians generally use them only if the Crohn’s disease is moderate to severe and it does not respond to other treatments. Because of the Corticosteroid’s side effects, they are usually given in the lowest possible dosage for the shortest amount of time. Immunomodulators are used to reduce inflammation, treat fistulas, and allow the physician to prescribe a lower dosage of corticosteroids.
The physician may pair an immunomodulator with a corticosteroid to speed up response during active flares of Crohn’s disease. This combination of these two drugs requires lower doses of the steroids. The will produce fewer side effects. The physician may prescribe antidiarrheals, laxatives, and pain relievers to help manage Crohn’s symptoms during periods of flare-ups. If there is chronic bleeding in the patient’s intestines then an iron supplement may be used to bring the iron levels back to normal.
Vitamin B-12 may be used to help stop anemia from occurring in the patient. It will help with normal growth and development and keep the nerves working properly. Finally, the physician may want the patient to take a calcium supplement with vitamin D. Vitamin D will help to counteract the increased risk of osteoporosis that can come from Crohn’s disease and the steroids used to treat it.
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