Crohn’s disease – Types, causes, complications and more

Crohn’s disease – Types, causes, complications and more

Inflammatory bowel disease, which is identified by inflammation in the digestive tract, is known as Crohn’s disease. The inflammation caused due to this condition often leads to pain in the abdomen area, tiredness, loss in body weight, malnutrition, and severe diarrhea. The inflammation can affect different parts of the digestive tract, depending on from one individual to another.

The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease reaches the deep layers of the bowel tissue that has been affected by this condition. The infection can drain out the energy from the body and can cause a tremendous amount of pain. In some cases, it can cause severe complications and even pose a threat to life.

A proper cure for the condition is yet to be found. However, therapies can help manage the symptoms, sometimes sending the patient into a long-term phase of remission. With the help of some treatments, there are many patients of Crohn’s disease who have been able to regain their normal body functions.

Types of Crohn’s disease

In some cases, Crohn’s disease can affect more than just one part of the digestive tract at once. In such cases, the patients can be suffering from more than just a single type of Crohn’s disease.

Based on the area of the digestive tract it affects, Crohn’s disease is mainly categorized into five types.

  • Ileocolitis

This is the most common type found in most patients. In this type, there is irritation and inflammation caused in the ileum, which is the lower portion of the small intestine and the colon. This type causes symptoms such as the following:

  • Noticeable loss in body weight
  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps or pain in the abdomen, usually in the lower-right or middle portions
  • Ileitis

The area affected and the symptoms caused by this type of Crohn’s disease are similar to that of ileocolitis. However, patients diagnosed with ileitis can also get fistulas in the lower-right portion of their abdomen.

  • GastroduodenalCrohn’s disease

In this type of Crohn’s disease, the stomach and duodenum are involved. The symptoms often associated with this type of Crohn’s disease are nausea, loss in body weight, and loss of appetite. In some cases, if some parts of the bowel get blocked, patients can also start vomiting. This is usually a result of inflammation in the intestines.

  • Jejunoileitis

This type of Crohn’s disease affects the jejunum, which is a part of the small intestine. It causes inflammation of the jejunum and causes symptoms such as the following:

  • Fistulas
  • Pain or cramps after eating meals
  • Diarrhea
  • Discomfort in the abdomen, causing severe pain at times
  • Crohn’s (granulomatous) colitis

Patients with this type of Crohn’s disease have inflammation in the colon, which is a part of the large intestine. It often causes symptoms, including the following:

  • Ulcers
  • Fistulas
  • Abscesses that develop around the anus
  • Pain in the joints
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin lesions
  • Bleeding from the rectum

Crohn’s disease symptoms and complications

Cramps in the stomach, constipation, and diarrhea are some common problems often experienced by people in day-to-day life. These problems usually occur for a short duration, and one can quickly get over them. However, when these symptoms start to occur frequently and become severe, the person likely has Crohn’s disease. Getting a checkup done by the doctor is necessary to get diagnosed.

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease that one needs to watch out for include the following:

  • Pain and cramps in the stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Blood discharge with stool
  • A leaking sore which develops near the anus
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss in body weight
  • Urgent bowel movements

Not all patients suffer from these symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms can be exceptionally mild. But in severe cases, it can leave the patient weak and tired, and, in the worst-case scenario, cause other severe complications.

These complications associated with Crohn’s disease include the following:

  • Local complications

These complications affect the intestinal tract and can cause

  • Abscess

This is a condition in which pus accumulates on the abdominal wall as a result of bacterial infection. It can also develop around the anus, and it appears like a boil. Swelling, fever, pain, and tenderness can also be experienced. This symptom can be treated with the help of antibiotics, which can drain the boil.

  • Fistula

The openings responsible for connecting the two portions of the intestines can get sores and ulcers. Also, these sores and ulcers can affect the adjoining tissues, such as the vagina, skin, and bladder. If the fistulas are small, antibiotics can be used to treat them. However, in cases where the fistulas are big in size or large in number, surgery can also be required.

  • Malnutrition

Small intestines are responsible for absorbing the nutrients in the food, and Crohn’s disease directly affects this vital part of the digestive system. Once the condition has been affecting your body for a long time, the body might eventually stop receiving the necessary nutrients from food. The patient might require treatment to replenish the body with the missing nutrition.

Systemic complications

The most common systemic complications associated with Crohn’s disease are as follows:

  • Arthritis

The condition causes inflammation in the joints, and, as a result, the patient experiences pain, restriction in movements, and swelling. Arthritis is the most common complication associated with the condition. Certain types of arthritis commonly accompany this condition. These are:

  • Peripheral
  • Axial
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Lack of vitamin D

When the body is no longer able to absorb the nutrients the way it is supposed to, it leads to a deficiency of vitamin D. It also means there isn’t enough calcium to be provided to the body for bone health.

  • Skin issues

Problems related to the skin is the next most common type of systemic complication. Skin problems commonly associated with Crohn’s disease are as follows:

  • Erythema nodosum
  • Skin tags
  • Pyoderma gangrenosum
  • Mouth ulcers

Causes of Crohn’s disease

The cause of Crohn’s disease is yet to be determined. However, certain factors can play a significant role in its development, including the following:

  • Genetics of a person
  • The surroundings of a person
  • The immune system

As per Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, as many as 20 percent of Crohn’s disease patients have been found to have a family member with the same condition.

In a 2012 study, it was found that it can have a direct impact on how severe the symptoms of the condition are, including the following:

  • Smoking
  • Age
  • If the situation involved the rectum
  • The duration for which the person has been from the disease

Patients of Crohn’s disease are also highly susceptible to intestinal infection caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. These infections may play an essential role in the severity of the symptoms and can even lead to some complications.

The treatments and the condition itself can have an impact on the immune system. Hence, it worsens the infections.

Infections caused by yeast are also commonly found in Crohn’s disease patients. These infections affect the intestinal tract and the lungs usually. To get proper treatment for these infections, diagnosing them on time becomes extremely important. Antifungal medicines are generally prescribed to the patients, to reduce the chances of any further infections.

Diagnosis of Crohn’s disease

Diagnosing Crohn’s disease with just one test result is not possible. To diagnose the condition, the doctors will first have to rule out the possibility of any other condition that could be causing the symptoms. There can be several types of tests that can be ordered to diagnose the condition. These include the following:

  • Blood tests can be ordered to identify the causes of some potential conditions, including inflammation and anemia.
  • The doctor can also order a stool test to investigate the GI tract of the patient.
  • To examine the upper portion of the gastrointestinal tract thoroughly, the doctor can also request an endoscopy.
  • The patient may also be asked to get a colonoscopy done to check the large bowel.
  • Sometimes, X-rays might not give proper results that the doctor could be looking for. Therefore, MRI and CT scans can also be ordered. With these tests’ help, doctors will be able to look into various areas of the organs and tissues.
  • Any problems with the intestinal tract will be investigated with the help of the results of a biopsy report. The tissue sample for biopsy can be taken at the time of endoscopy.

When the doctor reviews all the test results, he will be able to rule out any other condition that could be causing the symptoms. Once that is done, and no other underlying condition is present, they can diagnose the patient with Crohn’s disease.

These tests can be ordered multiple times by the doctor to keep a check on the affected tissue and watch the disease’s progression.

Crohn’s disease treatment

Although there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, there are some treatment options available that can help you manage it. There are various treatment options available that reduce the severity and the occurrence of the symptoms. These options include:

  • Medicines

There are multiple types of medications prescribed to Crohn’s disease patients. Among them, anti-inflammation and anti-diarrheal medications are the most common. Patients who need more advanced treatment are given biologics. These medications take help from the immune system of the body to cure the condition.
The medication prescribed to the patient depends on certain factors which include:

  • The symptoms that the patient is having
  • History of the disease
  • How severe the condition is
  • How well is the patient responding to the treatment
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs

Patients are often prescribed anti-inflammatory medications as a part of treatment for Crohn’s disease. These are usually prescribed in cases where the symptoms are mild and do not get flared up frequently. Stronger anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed when the symptoms are severe. However, these symptoms are not given for a long duration.

  • Immunomodulators

Crohn’s disease affects the immune system and makes it overactive. As a result, the patients experience the various symptoms of the condition. Immunomodulators are drugs that work on the immune system and lower the inflammation caused due to the disease.

  • Antibiotics

Many doctors believe in the positive effects of antibiotics in relieving the symptoms of the condition and reducing the potential triggers also.

  • Biologic therapies

If the disease reaches a severe stage, the patient can be prescribed one of the many biologic therapies. This treatment course is used to reduce the inflammation and other complications that come with the disease. With the help of drugs used in the biologic treatment, specific proteins that can flare up the swelling can be blocked.

Diet and Crohn’s disease

The symptoms of the condition can attack suddenly. There can be several factors that can trigger the condition, and food is one of them. Therefore, eating the right foods is extremely important to manage Crohn’s disease.

Just like there are certain foods that you should avoid to keep the symptoms of Crohn’s disease under control, there are some foods that can manage it. For Crohn’s disease patients, it is essential to eat foods that are soft and extremely nutritious. So, the diet of a Crohn’s disease patient can include:

  • Refined grains
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruits that are low in fiber content
  • Fruits with their skin removed
  • Peeled and adequately cooked vegetables
  • Fruit juices
  • Soy
  • Yogurt
  • Green tea
  • Curcumin

Crohn’s disease prevention

Various prevention tips can prevent the symptoms of the condition from occurring and flaring up, including the following:

  • Avoid foods that trigger the symptoms
  • Avoid the consumption of dairy products
  • Avoid intake of fiber
  • Keep yourself hydrated
  • Take dietary supplements
  • Practice stress management
  • Exercise regularly
  • Quit smoking

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