Everyone suffers from a digestive disturbance from time to time. For some people, that might be a simple upset stomach, a bout with diarrhea or a run of constipation. In many cases, this can be blamed on something you ate or a change in your diet.
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For others, however, the problem is chronic and indicates an illness. Crohn’s disease is caused by inflammation in the intestines and causes symptoms that range in severity from mild to severe. A diagnosis from your physician is your best first step in treating the problem, but here’s some general information you need to know about Crohn’s disease.
What Symptoms Should I Look For?
Again, your symptoms of Crohn’s disease may be mild or they could be severe enough to interfere with daily life. You may also suffer from mild symptoms at times, while at other times they can be much worse. The most common symptom reported is diarrhea. It may or may not be accompanied by intestinal pain or cramping. You may find yourself running to the bathroom after meals, which is when the condition will be at its worst. Sometimes, there might also be blood in your feces.
In addition to being painful and uncomfortable, Crohn’s disease can also cause excess fatigue, so it may tax your energy levels. Often, the fatigue comes along with a low-grade fever. Both are indicators of inflammation, which is what causes the disease to flare.
You might also notice that you lose weight or have a reduced appetite. The pain and discomfort caused by Crohn’s disease can make you feel full, so you won’t want to eat. This may result in weight loss. Recurrent diarrhea can also lend itself to unintentional weight loss. This can be dangerous if you drop below a healthy number and may lead to nutrient deficiencies and other subsequent health issues.
Finally, people with Crohn’s disease might also experience inflammation in other areas of the body that are not directly related to digestion. That includes the eyes, skin, joints and liver. Children with the disease could be delayed in their growth patterns.
How Is Crohn’s Disease Treated?
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but with proper treatment, you can live a happy and high quality life. Often, drugs are used to control the symptoms and include anti-inflammatory medications, immune suppressors and antibiotics. Some people also need to take nutritional supplements to counteract the gaps caused by diarrhea and a reduced appetite.
In many cases, changes to the diet must be made. The foods that trigger your symptoms may differ from another person with Crohn’s disease. A food journal, in which you record what you eat and what symptoms you have afterward, is a valuable tool for determining which foods you should avoid, so make certain you keep one. Your doctor might also recommend a low-fiber diet. In severe cases, a feeding tube may be needed to ensure that you are getting adequate nutrition.
Sometimes surgery is necessary to remove damaged parts of your intestines and connect the healthy areas for proper digestion and relief of your symptoms. According to the experts at Mayo Clinic, most people with Crohn’s disease will require at least one surgery, while others will require many more.
What Is the Prognosis for Crohn’s Disease?
Again, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but careful and consistent choices can improve your quality of life. This includes limiting dairy foods and foods high in fat and fiber. You might also need to avoid spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine. Eating small meals, increasing your fluid intake, quitting smoking and getting plenty of exercise are other ways to control the disease. Talk with your doctor about the approach that will work best for you.
Crohn’s disease is certainly not a death sentence, but it will require regular medical care and sticking to a treatment routine to keep your symptoms at bay. Work with your physician to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to control your Crohn’s disease.