CROHN’S DISEASE

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Know the inside-out of Crohn’s Disease


What do you understand by the term ‘Crohn’s Disease?’

Crohn’s Disease is one of the two entities that come under thecommon name of ‘Inflammatory Bowel Disease’, abbreviated as IBD,the other one being Ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s Disease is a severeinflammation of your bowels where segments of your intestines areeither completely swollen or have deep sores namely ulcers. Theinflammation usually starts off, from the last portion of your smallintestine, and the first part of your large intestine, namedileocecal area. But the inflammation can affect any part of yourdigestive tract, starting from your mouth, ending with your anus.

Causes of Crohn’s Disease

No specific cause has been clearly implicated, a few possiblecausative factors are:

  • Abnormal response by the body’s immune system towards the intestinal bacteria

  • Hereditary- Jewish families belonging to Eastern Europe are more susceptible to getting the inflammatory disease.

  • Smoking

  • Infections caused by certain types of bacteria or viruses

Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

The common symptoms may include:

  • Intermittent or persisting pain, near the lower quadrant of your abdomen

  • Diarrhea accompanied with blood (People diagnosed with the Crohn’s Disease may pass stools or diarrhea for 10-20 times in a day)

  • Passage of mucus in stools

  • Loss of appetite and loss of weight

  • Mouth sores/ulcers – called apthous ulcers

  • Abdominal distension due to Intestinal obstruction – which means severe narrowing of the caliber of the intestines.

  • Anal tears or fissures

  • Anal fistulas.

Complications of Crohn’s disease


Intestinal Complications

Obstruction and perforation of small or large intestine, abscessformation (pus collection) bleeding from the intestines and fistula(internal communication between intestines. Any of thesecomplications may require emergency surgery. Crohn’s patients haveincreased risk of intestinal cancer as well.

Other complications

Skin nodules (erythema nodosum), Skin ulcers (pyoderma gangrenosum)painful eye (iritis, uveitis), joint swelling (arthritis) back ache(ankylosing spondylitis) and liver involvement (primary sclerosingcholangitis)

Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease

A thorough history regarding your illness and physical examinationalong with few tests will help your doctor suspect Crohn’s disease.He would be able to assess the degree of inflammation within yourintestines with the help of few lab tests. The tests can detectinflammation, infection, internal bleeding or help him identify thenutritional consequences of the disease in your body. These include

  • Hemoglobin

  • WBC count

  • ESR

  • CRP

  • Iron profile

  • Proteins

  • C ANCA and P ANCA


Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is a technique, where a lighter long flexible tube ispassed through your anus to visualize the lower part of yourdigestive tract - the large intestine and terminal portion of thesmall intestine. Ulcers, narrowing and mucosal inflammation in yourbowels can be seen and your physician can take biopsies fromsuspicious areas.

CT scan and CT Enterography

CT scans provide detailed images of your abdomen and the pelvisregion. The entire small and large bowel and structures around arevery well seen in detail. CT Enterography is a special technique thatis more commonly used in suspected Crohn’s disease and has replacedthe traditional Barium X rays. Abscesses (pockets of infection),areas of bowel narrowing (stricture) and connections between bowelloops (fistulae) are very well delineated by these techniques.

Treatment options for Crohn’s Disease

In order to treat, Crohn’s disease, you will first be supplied withdrugs or medicines to suppress inflammation and reduce symptoms ofnausea or diarrhea.

Medication

These include

Amino salicylates

The drugs include Mesa amine, Olsalazine, Balsalazide andSulfasalazine. All these drugs work at the lining of thegastro-intestinal tract and help reduce inflammation

Corticosteroids

These steroids suppress the body’s immune system and are preferablyused to treat moderate or a severe form of the disease or for shortterm improvement of the disease.

Immunosuppressants

These drugs act on the immune system to reduce the production ofsubstances that cause inflammation. Different types ofimmunosuppressants include Azathioprine, Methotrexate, Infliximab,Adalimumab and Certolizumab pegol

Antibiotics

Antibiotics that are typically used to suppress bacterial infectionsor heal fistulas include metronidazole and ciprofloxacin.

Surgical options

A few patients do not respond very well to medical treatment and it’ssaid that at least half of patients will need surgery at some pointof their disease. Surgery doesn’t cure Crohn’s disease. It’sprimarily intended to deal with complications like intestinalobstruction, perforation, bleeding, abscess and fistulas.


Surgery basically involves removing that segment involved and joiningback the relatively healthy segments. One common surgery isstricturoplasty, where narrowed segment of bowel is widened up to anormal caliber.

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