Crohn’s and Colitis

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Crohn’s Disease

s-patient2.jpgCrohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the lining of the digestive tract causing severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and malnutrition. This sometimes painful and incapacitating disease can lead to life-threatening complications if not properly cared for. Unfortunately, there is no cure, but there are certain treatments and therapies available to help reduce the signs and symptoms associated with Crohn’s disease.

Common symptoms of Crohn’s disease vary from person to person and can develop gradually or suddenly, without warning. When the disease is in its active stage, common signs include: abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloody stools, ulcers and loss of appetite. Others may also experience fatigue, fever and skin disorders.

No one is certain of the exact cause of Crohn’s disease, but things like diet and stress seem to aggravate the symptoms associated with the disease. Certain risk factors for Crohn’s disease include family history, ethnicity, smoking, demographics, certain medications and age. To confirm whether or not a person has Crohn’s disease several tests will be performed, including blood tests and a colonoscopy. If diagnosed with the disease, treatments focus on reducing the inflammation that triggers the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. For most, drug therapy is used to promote long-term remission of Crohn’s disease. Others may require surgery, where the damaged portion of the digestive tract is removed.

Your doctor will work with you individually to determine what course of treatment would be most beneficial for you.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is another type of IBD, or inflammatory bowel disease that causes severe inflammation of the large intestine and rectum. Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis can be unbearable and lead to life-threatening problems.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary depending on the severity of inflammation and where the inflammation is occurring. Therefore, there are different classifications of ulcerative colitis:

  • Ulcerative proctitis is considered the mildest form; as it is confined to the rectum. This condition may cause rectal bleeding and difficulty having a bowel movement.
  • Proctosigmoiditis affects the rectum and lower end of the colon, and may cause abdominal cramping and bloody diarrhea.
  • Left-sided colitis causes inflammation of the rectum up the left side of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal cramping and pain on the left side, bloody diarrhea and unintentional weight loss.
  • Pancolitis affects the entire colon and may cause severe abdominal cramping, fatigue, bloody diarrhea and considerable weight loss.
  • Fulminant colitis is rare, but life-threatening, as it affects the entire colon. This condition causes extreme pain, profuse diarrhea, dehydration and sometimes shock.

It is unsure what triggers ulcerative colitis, but it is believed a weak immune system and heredity are the primary causes of the disease. Age, ethnicity, family history and the use of certain medications may increase a person’s risk for developing ulcerative colitis.

While there is no known cure for this disease, there are a number of therapies available to help minimize the symptoms and possibly provide long-term remission of the condition. A variety of tests, including a stool sample and colonoscopy are performed to assist in the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. The objective of treatment is to decrease the inflammation caused by the symptoms of this disease. Treatments may include drug therapy or surgery, depending on the severity of the case.