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Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the digestive tract. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the cells of the lining of the digestive tract are thought to be foreign by the body. The ensuing erroneous immune response causes ulcerations and pain in the gastrointestinal system. Crohn’s usually affects the area outside the stomach at the beginning of the duodenum, or small intestine. Symptoms can include stomach pain, diarrhea, unexplained fever, joint pain, fatigue, and blood in the stool. Gastroenterologists, doctors who specialize in the treatment of stomach and intestinal disorders, diagnose it with a colonoscopy or endoscopy. These are ways of viewing the lining of the digestive system without surgery. Usually, the doctor finds cells that are considered typical in Crohn’s Disease, which he bases the diagnosis on. Also, lab work that shows inflammatory markers or conditions are typically elevated. These tests include erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR, C-reactive protein, or CRP, and elevated platelet count.

Crohn’s Disease occurs in men and women and can have an onset in childhood. Sometimes the symptoms are very vague and can mimic other conditions. It can run in families, so this is something to consider in diagnosis. Treatment of this painful condition generally consists of immune suppressing medications, such as methotrexate and mercaptopurine. Prednisone, a strong steroidal anti-inflammatory, is often given right away to calm down the inflammation right away and give relief. However, since long term effects of this medication can affect bone health, the dosage is generally weaned down shortly after initial dosing. Other inflammatory drugs for intestinal inflammation can be effective, such as asacol. Infusion medication to fight autoimmune inflammation can also be administered, such as inflaximab. Complications in Crohn’s Disease can be serious. There can be internal bleeding, anemia, and malnourishment. Patient-doctor contact should be maintained.

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