Understanding Crohn's Disease
Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Symptoms of Crohn's Disease
Symptoms of Crohn's disease include frequent, recurring diarrhea, rectal bleeding, fever, reduced appetite, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, abdominal pain, abdominal cramping, mouth sores and pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula). People with very severe disease may also experience inflammation of the eyes, skin and joints, inflammation of the liver and bile ducts, kidney stones, iron deficiency (anemia) and delayed growth or sexual development (children).
Diagnosing Crohn's Disease
To diagnose Crohn's disease, it is common to undergo blood tests which include routine blood tests, fecal blood tests and antibody blood tests. Colonoscopy allows viewing of the entire colon using a thin, flexible, lighted tube with a camera at the end. During the procedure, small samples of tissue (biopsy) for laboratory analysis may be taken, which may help to make a diagnosis. Clusters of inflammatory cells called granulomas, if present, help essentially confirm the diagnosis of Crohn's. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to identify areas of disease activity and possible complications.
Treatment of Crohn's disease
There are multiple medications used in the treatment of Crohn’s disease including corticosteroids, 5-aminosalicylates, immune suppressants (azathioprine [e.g., Imuran®], mercaptopurine, methotrexate) and biologic medications including Infliximab (e.g., Inflectra®, Remicade®), administered into the blood stream intravenously and ustekinumab (Stelara®) administered as a single dose intravenously followed by maintenance doses administered under the skin (subcutaneously).
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