Crohn’s disease is a chronic bowel disease that causes severe inflammation of your digestive tract and affects your quality of life. This can lead to severe diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract in different people. Inflammation caused as a result of Chron’s disease can spread deep into the bowls of the individual. It can be painful and debilitating which can cause life-threatening complications. At present there is no known cure for Chron’s disease, although it can be managed through:
• Medicines to reduce inflammation in the digestive system – usually steroid tablets
• Medicines to stop the inflammation coming back – either tablets or injections
• Surgery to remove a small part of the digestive system – sometimes this may be a better treatment option than medicines.
You’ll usually have a team of health professionals helping you, possibly including a GP, a specialist nurse and specialist doctors.
The causes of Chron’s disease are unknown, however factors, such as heredity and a malfunctioning immune system, likely play a role in the development of the condition. If a family member has Chron’s disease it can be passed onto the next generation, making it genetically susceptible. Many people with the condition have no known family history of the condition. Viral bacterial infection may also cause the immune system to have an unusual response as it tries to fight the invading microorganism. As the immune system fights the infection it may also attack the digestive tract too.
Chron’s disease may also have the following signs and symptoms:
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Blood in your stool
• Mouth sores
• Reduced appetite and weight loss
• Pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
• People with severe Crohn’s disease also may experience:
• Inflammation of skin, eyes and joints
• Inflammation of the liver or bile ducts
• Delayed growth or sexual development, in children
If you have any of the above, you should see your GP who will refer you to a specialist to be tested. It does not mean that you have the condition, however it is always better to get checked and it turns out to be nothing then to live with the condition for years without knowing it. If, however it turns out that you do have Chron’s disease it you will need to ensure that you have regular check ups with your Doctor. Unpredictable flare-ups and regular check-ups with your care team can disrupt school, work and your social life, however it will help you to live a relatively normal life.