Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease is one of the few conditions categorized as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract's lining, which can lead to uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms. Crohn's disease is diagnosed by its qualities instead of its location, because it can affect different areas of the digestive tract depending upon the patient.

Crohn's disease may be either mild or severe, and if left untreated it can burrow its way into the affected tissues, causing inflammation in deep layers. This can create painful and crippling symptoms in patients and in some cases may even lead to life-threatening complications.

Because the exact cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown, there is unfortunately no cure. However, therapies have been developed which can effectively manage signs and symptoms, sometimes causing long-term remission if applied properly and thoroughly.

Signs and symptoms

Crohn's disease affects different parts of the digestive tract depending upon the patient. For this reason, the location of the disease is non-specific, although it is restricted to the digestive tract. The symptoms of Crohn's range from mild to severe, and frequently disappear and appear without warning. Symptoms of Crohn's disease include:

  • Diarrhea. The inflammation in Crohn's causes the affected tissue to secrete water and salt. These are not absorbed by the colon, so the excess fluid causes runny stool.
  • Abdominal pain and cramping. Because Crohn's causes inflammation in the digestive tract, the tissue takes up more space, impacting the natural flow of contents through the tract. In milder cases, the cramping may be less noticeable, but in more severe cases it can lead to nausea and vomiting.
  • Bloody stool. When food passes through the inflamed tissue, the tissue may begin to bleed. This is then passed through the remainder of the digestive tract and expelled through the anus.
  • Ulcers. During the course of Crohn's disease, small sores are likely to develop which then develop into ulcers. In more severe cases, these may develop enough to puncture through the intestinal wall.

Testing and diagnosis

While many tests exist to diagnose Crohn's disease, the primary test used at the Colorectal Center Los Angeles is, in fact, a colonoscopy. During this test, a long, flexible tube is inserted into the rectum. This tube has a tiny camera on the end, which a gastroenterologist uses to examine the colon's interior. During this procedure, the gastroenterologist can also take samples of tissue, called a biopsy. These samples can be examined at a laboratory to detect signs of Crohn's disease and other colorectal disorders. Additionally, a colonoscopy may be used to eliminate precancerous or cancerous polyps located within the colon.

Other diagnostic methods for Crohn's disease include:

  • Blood tests
  • Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Capsule endoscopy
  • Double balloon endoscopy
  • Small bowel imaging
  • Barium enema

If there is a non-optimum colorectal condition present, the experts at Colorectal Center Los Angeles will find it and get a diagnosis. This is an important step, as treatment can then be planned according to the type and severity of the condition.

Crohn's Disease Treatment

Because there is currently no cure for Crohn's disease, the primary goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms to ensure the patient's comfort. Once the symptoms are under control, further treatment is geared towards managing them, doing everything possible to prevent them from returning. Crohn's disease treatment generally includes drug therapy and/or surgery, depending on the case. Specific forms of treatment include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, as would be applied in any inflammatory bowel disease. These generally include several side effects, and it is important to fully discuss any potential negatives with your doctor before ingestion.
  • Immune system suppressors may be used, which, while they don’t directly target the inflammation, will still reduce it. These suppressors occasionally carry an increased risk of certain cancers. Discuss these drugs thoroughly with your doctor before undergoing treatment.
  • Other fairly generic medications may be used to control specific symptoms of Crohn's. Such medications include anti-diarrheal supplements, laxatives and pain relief, among others.
  • If medication or other treatments are not effective, surgery may be an option. During surgical procedures for Crohn's, the surgeon removes an affected portion of the digestive tract. The healthy sections are then reconnected to one another. While this is an effective procedure, it is frequently temporary, requiring a follow-up surgery to continue symptom management. Following surgery, it may be wise to continue a regimen of medications to prevent recurrence of the disease.

Whatever the severity and nature of your condition, the experts at the Colorectal Center Los Angeles are here to make you as comfortable as possible. Please give us a call today to find out how we can provide you with the best Crohn's disease treatment Los Angeles has to offer.

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