Crohn's disease is a chronic medical condition where inflammation can occur anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. It most commonly affects the end of the small intestines (the terminal ileum).
The inflammation can affect all layers of the intestinal lining. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloody stools. Because it affects all layers of the lining, you can develop a fistula. Fistulas are an abnormal connection between the organs and can result in materials from the bowel getting into other abdominal organs such as the skin, bladder or vagina.
You may also experience skin tags, abscesses, anal fissures or fistulas in the area around the anus (perianal disease). These symptoms can be difficult to treat.
One of your intestine's main functions is to absorb nutrients. The inflammation makes this difficult, resulting in malabsorption. Malabsorption may lead to kidney stones and gall stones
Diagnosing Crohn's Disease
Your physician may order a colonoscopy to diagnose Crohn's disease in the colon. You may need an MRI, CT scan or capsule endoscopy to diagnose the disease in other areas of the digestive tract.
A biopsy will determine if the inflammation affects all layers of the intestinal lining or just the superficial layers, with the latter indicating an ulcerative colitis diagnosis.
Treating Crohn's Disease
No medical cure exists for Crohn's disease, but there are methods that treat the symptoms. These methods includes several medications that reduce flare-ups and help improve your quality of life.
Surgery is reserved for patients who develop bowel obstructions, fistulas or abscesses; or when medications cannot control the disease.