Crohn’s Disease Overview and Treatment

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affecting a significant number of Americans every year. It involves chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, unlike ulcerative colitis, which only affects the colon and rectum, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the G.I. tract. While most cases of Crohn’s disease target the final portion of the small intestine – the ileum – they can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

Causes of Crohn’s Disease

With upwards of 700,000 people in the United States currently suffering from Crohn’s disease, it is a relatively common condition. Despite its prevalence, we do not know exactly what causes the condition. However, there is reason to believe genetics, environmental exposure, and excessive immune response all play a part in its development.

Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease

The diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is not straightforward and often requires significant imaging and other diagnostic testing. Much of the testing is used to rule out other conditions. Some of the most common diagnostic tools include:

  • Blood, fecal and antibody testing
  • MRI
  • CT Scans
  • X-rays (with or without contrast)
  • Endoscopy
  • Ultrasound

Treating Crohn’s Disease

The first line of defense against the symptoms of Crohn’s disease involves medication. Anti-inflammatories are commonly prescribed, especially in those with mild symptoms. Corticosteroids, to reduce immune activity, may also be employed. Corticosteroids are more often used for patients with moderate to severe symptoms. If the patient does not respond well to the medications above, immune modulators can also reduce inflammation in the G.I. tract. While immune modulators can be effective, they do take weeks to show improvement and have more significant side effects.

Resting the bowels also serves as an effective treatment for Crohn’s disease. Bowel rest diets may include liquids fortified by certain nutrients, liquids introduced into the body via a feeding tube in the stomach or small intestine or nutrients introduced intravenously.

Surgery for Crohn’s disease is an option when symptoms are not fully resolved by medications or bowel rest, however it is not curative. Rather it is used to treat bleeding, fistulas, and other G.I. problems related to the condition itself or its treatment.

There are several surgical options depending on the patient’s situation:

  • A small bowel resection involves the removal of part of the small intestine. Typically, this is performed on the ileum, where most cases of Crohn’s disease occur.
  • A colectomy, where part of the colon is removed, may be indicated when there is an obstruction or fistula in the large intestine causing blockage.

To learn more about common treatments for Crohn’s Disease and other Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and how our surgeons can help you, we encourage you to contact our office.

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