December 1-7 is Crohn’s Awareness Week. This is an important opportunity to share about a disease that can be very debilitating and very embarrassing for the people who have it.
Since it affects the digestive tract, generally the small intestine, many of the symptoms are related to the bowel and can be difficult to manage in public or business places.
In addition to being embarrassing, it can be extremely painful and debilitating, with life-threatening complications.
Common symptoms include abdominal cramping, pain with passing stool, persistent and watery diarrhea, and sometimes weight loss. Additional symptoms could be constipation, joint pain and swelling, rectal bleeding or bloody stools.
Fistulas can be common, which are abnormal passageways found between two organs in the body or to the exterior of the body. Fistulas can cause pus, mucus or stools to come out in irregular places.
Fatigue and malnutrition can also result, which can cause problems with problems with daily activities.
Crohn’s disease is considered an autoimmune disease that affects the digestive tract. The autoimmune component of this disease causes the immune system to attack the healthy tissue of the digestive tract.
It is also considered an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that usually affects intestines. However it can affect any part of the digestive from the mouth to the anus.
Part of the course of this disease is ongoing or chronic inflammation flare-ups and remissions of the symptoms. Stress, certain foods, and lifestyle complications can exacerbate the symptoms.
Currently there is no cure for Crohn’s disease but it can manage to reduce signs and symptoms and/or support remission when it occurs.
Individualized treatment can help people function well in daily life. The goal of any treatment is to reduce inflammation and hopefully create long-term remission.
Conventional medical treatments usually mean anti-inflammatory, immune system suppressors, medications for specific symptoms and sometimes surgery.