What is Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract between the mouth and the anus. Crohn’s Disease is an immune deficiency disease whereby the immune system attacks the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract causing inflammation throughout the body. It’s estimated that roughly one million people within North America and Europe are currently diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.

Crohn's DiseaseSymptoms of Crohn’s Disease can be diarrhea and bloody stools, frequent and irregular trips to the bathroom, abdominal pain, vomiting and weight loss.  Crohn’s Disease can also lead to other complications outside of the intestinal tract such as chronic fatigue, inflammation of the eye, skin rashes including pyoderma gangrenosum, rheumatoid arthritis, and fistulas.

While Crohn’s Disease can be diagnosed at any age, most diagnoses are between the ages of fifteen through twenty four and again between fifty through seventy. Tests used to diagnose Crohn’s Disease are similar to that of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and can include colonoscopy, endoscopy, CT scan, biopsies of the gastrointestinal tract, and blood tests.

Currently, there is no known cure for Crohn’s Disease. Patients work toward managing the disease to achieve periods of remission. Managing the disease usually entails diet, medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes. It should be noted that surgery can not cure Crohn’s Disease but is used to remove parts of the gastrointestinal tract that have been heavily damaged by the disease. It can also be necessary for repairing strictures and for ileostomies.

Several medications are currently used to aid in achieving remission. Those include 5-aminosalicylic acid ( 5-ASA ), prednisone, Infliximab ( Remicade ), Methotrexate, Mercaptopurine ( 6-MP ), and Azathioprine.

The ability to achieve remission, regardless of medication, surgery, diet, or lifestyle change will be different for each patient as Crohn’s Disease affects each patient differently. Some may be able to achieve remission just through biological medication, others will need a few or a combination of efforts.