How to Live With Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is an illness that causes inflammation of the bowels. It is not known exactly what causes the disease, although experts believe a mix of genetic and environmental factors are involved. It is especially prevalent in the developed world, and has become increasingly common in the last fifty years. Onset typically occurs in a person’s teens or early twenties, and the disease results in a slight reduction in life expectancy.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease affect the gastrointestinal tract and vary in intensity. Symptoms sometimes come and go, with some weeks bringing more flare-ups than others.

  • The most common symptom, which most people experience long before they’re diagnosed, is pain in the lower right portion of the abdomen.
  • Bowel movements are also affected, with some patients needing to defecate up to twenty times per day.
  • Feces tend to be smaller and more watery than normal.
  • The regular occurrence of flatulation and bloating is another common symptom.

Pain, itchiness, and inflammation around the anus are typical.

Beyond the gastrointestinal tract, there are a number of symptoms that affect the entire body. For children, Crohn’s disease can stunt growth. Mild fevers are common for adults and children, as is a loss of appetite and a general aversion to eating. Inflammation of the inner eye (a condition called uveitis) is a common symptom, and can lead to blindness if left untreated. Crohn’s disease affects the joints, causing stiffness and arthritis, as well as the skin, with lesions and nodules often appearing on the shin.

Crohn’s disease increases the risk of developing several conditions, including blood clots, osteoporosis, clubbing, and autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

Management

Managing Crohn’s disease involves a combination of lifestyle changes and treatments. Dietary adjustments are the single most important step for patients to take. Simple changes like increased fiber and fruit intake can help lessen the severity of symptoms. Staying properly hydrated has also proven effective, as has quitting smoking. Tobacco seems to increase the regularity of flare-ups of major symptoms.

Treatments

There are a number of treatment options for Crohn’s disease. Antibiotics are typically used when infection occurs. When symptoms are not severe, aminosalicylates are used to maintain a stable condition. If anemia occurs, then iron supplements are administered. Steroids can sometimes be helpful, although their long-term use is not recommended because of the many side effects.

Surgery is sometimes used to remove diseased portions of the intestines when blockages require it, but it is not a cure for the disease as the illness almost always recurs. Repeated surgeries are sometimes necessary, as scarring at the site of the operation can cause new blockages.

Crohn’s disease is a lifelong illness with no known cure. Still, most patients with the disorder are able to live normal, full-length lives. The symptoms are varied, as are the methods of managing them. The extent of the discomfort caused usually varies from week to week, and patients often enjoy relatively comfortable stretches.