What Causes Crohn's Disease?
Crohn’s disease impacts 26 to 199 individuals per 100,000 people. It’s typically diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 40. However, it can also impact a person at any age.
Generally, Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel condition. It can affect any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. However, inflammation is usually found in the lower part of the digestive tract. Further, inflammation may impact these tissues and organs fairly deeply, making it a very debilitating and sometimes, life-threatening condition.
Currently, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease. However, like other inflammatory bowel conditions, there are various ways to manage it. Before we look at the common signs and symptoms and treatment options, let’s take a closer look at what causes Crohn’s disease in the first place.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
Interestingly, the exact cause of Crohn’s disease isn’t known. Experts know that certain factors around diet and stress can impact it, but this doesn’t mean that they cause it. However, these same experts have some theories as to why this disease arises. These include:
- An abnormal immune system response. Scientists believe that a virus or bacteria may cause this disease. Yet, they aren’t sure what kind of virus or bacteria triggers it. Generally, the immune system will attack the virus or bacteria, but it doesn’t stop there. The immune system then goes on to attack the digestive tract, leading to various symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease.
- Genetics. A surprising 20% of individuals diagnosed with Crohn’s disease have a parent, sibling, or child who also has the disease. Therefore, many experts believe that there is some sort of genetic component involved in the development of Crohn’s.
- Your environment. Environmental factors can always play a part in the development of diseases. For instance, if you smoke or inhale second-hand smoke, you are at a higher risk of not only having Crohn’s disease but also having more flare-ups associated with it.
Other risk factors include your age (generally, this disease is often diagnosed at 30), ethnicity (Caucasian individuals tend to be at a higher risk), and if you’re on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
Most often, these causes cannot be avoided or prevented. This is because there is an emphasis on an abnormal immune system response and genetics when it comes to the reason why Crohn’s disease happens.
At the same time, leading a holistic and healthy lifestyle may lessen your risk of becoming ill with this condition or any other illness.
Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
Common signs and symptoms of this disease include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- Reduced appetite or loss of appetite
- Mouth sores
- Weight loss
- Feelings and sensations associated with not emptying your bowel fully
- Frequent bowel movements
Those with a more severe form of Crohn’s disease may also have the following signs and symptoms:
- Eye, skin, and joint inflammation
- Liver or bile duct inflammation
- Iron deficiency
- Delayed growth
- Kidney stones
- Pain and drainage near the anus
- Shortness of breath
If you have any abdominal pain or changes in your bowel movements, it’s important to book an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause and rule out Crohn’s disease.
Luckily, there are various ways that Crohn’s disease can be managed. The goal is to reduce your symptoms and prevent long-term complications. Treatment options include the three methods listed below.
Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids and Oral 5-aminosalicylates, or immune system suppressors, such as azathioprine, mercaptopurine, or methotrexate.
Antibiotics may also be used in cases where fistulas and abscesses have occurred. This can help these areas heal and prevent infection.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you will likely benefit from sitting down with a registered dietician. They can help you determine what diet changes to make, including what foods you can try and what foods you should likely avoid.
They may also ask you to keep a food diary to track what you eat and how it makes you feel. This can make it easier when it comes to determining what foods work for you and what foods don’t.
Often, for Crohn’s disease, a low fiber diet is recommended.
If all other treatment options don’t work and the disease continues to progress, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery for you. Surprisingly, about half of individuals diagnosed with Crohn’s disease end up having surgery at some point in their journey.
Generally, surgery involves the removal of damaged portions of your digestive tract. Once these parts are removed, the surgeon will connect the healthy pieces together. Surgery may also be required to help repair damaged tissues, treat infections, or remove scar tissue build-up.
Discuss your options with your doctor. They know you and your health history best and will be able to determine what treatment might be more appropriate to you and your life.