Crohn’s Disease Treatments

a woman with crohns disease holds her stomach in pain

Crohns disease can occur in any part of the digestive tract and is a chronic inflammatory disease process. The exact causes aren't known but there appears to be a genetic component.

An Informational Overview

The original trigger may be a reaction to a virus or bacteria but once the threat is removed the immune system can't shut itself off. This continued immune system attack is then directed at the food the patient has eaten and their intestinal tissue which will cause many different symptoms some of which are life-threatening.

Diagnosis can be a challenge because of the variety of Crohns disease symptoms that can be present. Many of the symptoms only happen occasionally which makes the diagnosis even more difficult. Doctors do have a variety of blood and x-ray type tests that help them reach a diagnosis. Some of the symptoms are acute and life threatening which will require immediate action such as hospitalization and/or surgery.

Crohns disease treatment takes many forms depending on the symptoms. Bowel blockage or fistulas are the most acute and usually require surgery. Less severe symptoms are often treated with medications, stopping smoking and close monitoring by the doctor. Gastroenterologists are the specialists who usually diagnosis and treat Crohns disease in conjunction with the patient's primary care physician.

Crohns Disease Symptoms

How does a patient know they have Crohns disease? What are the main Crohns disease symptoms? There are frequently a cluster of symptoms that allow the doctor to make a diagnosis which can include the following:

  • Frequent Diarrhea
    Often occurring up to 10 to 20 times a day is a symptom and can be accompanied by blood in the stool.
  • Abdominal Pain
    Frequently located in the lower right abdomen which can include intermittent cramping or a dull, persistent ache. Severe cramping, vomiting and absence of bowel movements can signal a bowel obstruction which can be life-threatening.
  • Fever
    Can occur if the patient is suffering from an acute episode or has an abscess.
  • Weight Loss and/or Loss of Appetite
    This is usually caused by ongoing diarrhea.
  • Anemia
    Again ongoing diarrhea or inflammation can severely reduce the number of red blood cells causing anemia.

Other symptoms associated with Crohns disease are mouth ulcers, nutritional deficiencies and anal sores such as fissures or fistulas.

There are other conditions associated with Crohns disease because of the auto-immune component such as skin rashes, joint pain, liver involvement (causing jaundice which is yellowing of the skin) and eye problems.

Doctors also strongly suggest that patients stop smoking as smoking can greatly increase the frequency and severity of Crohns disease symptoms.

Crohns Disease Treatment

Though there is no Crohns cure, there are many levels of Crohns disease treatment depending on the severity of the symptoms. If the patient presents with chronic diarrhea and mild abdominal pain the treatment will usually be medication to fight the inflammation and diarrhea. However, if the patient has severe abdominal cramping, vomiting and no bowel movements then a more aggressive approach will usually include hospitalization, IV fluids and possibly surgery to remove a bowel obstruction.

The first-line of medications to treat most patients who have active symptoms is corticosteroids and/or antibiotics. These medications will frequently be followed by a maintenance dose of aminosalicylates or medicines that suppress the immune system to keep the patient in remission.

Biologics are used in severe cases that don't respond well to the first-line medications. These drugs suppress the immune system and are mainly used to prevent symptoms that require repeated surgeries.