Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, the most common area it affects is the small intestine right before the large intestine/colon. Currently, IBD affects an estimated 3 million men and women in the United States. While there is a genetic component to increased risk of IBD, family history cannot accurately predict who will contract Crohn’s Disease.
Chron’s Disease affects each patient differently during periods where it’s active—also known as a “flare.” With this in mind, these are some of the most common symptoms and long-term complications caused by Chron’s Disease:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Constipation, which can lead to bowel obstruction
- Kidney stones
- Loss of normal menstrual cycle
- Mouth sores
- Night sweats
- Persistent diarrhea
- Rare liver complications
- Rectal bleeding
- Redness or pains in the eyes/vision changes
- Sensation of incomplete bowel movements
- Swollen and painful joints
- Urgent need to move bowels
Unfortunately, Chron’s Disease can also affect your overall health in the following ways:
- Delayed growth and development in children
- Loss of appetite
- Low energy and fatigue
- Weight loss
In more severe cases, Chron’s Disease can also cause the following complications:
- Anal fissures, which cause pain and bleeding—especially during bowel movements.
- Fistulas, which is an abnormal channel that forms between one part of the intestine and another, or between the intestine and the bladder, vagina, or skin. Most commonly fistulas occur in the anal area and require immediate medical attention.
- Strictures, or a narrowing of the intestine as a result of chronic inflammation.
Diagnosing requires a combination of endoscopy; imaging studies like contrast radiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computed tomography (CT); stool sample testing to rule out an infection; and blood testing to confirm the diagnosis.
In order to reduce symptoms, paying special attention to your diet and maintaining good nutrition is encouraged. For example, soft, bland foods tend to cause less discomfort in people with the disease than spicy or high-fiber foods. You may also need to restrict your diary intake if you’re found to be lactose-intolerant.