Crohn’s disease

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract and most commonly involves the end of the small bowel and large bowel. It is thought to be related to dysfunction in the interaction between the gut immune system and the microbiome or gut flora. It’s exact cause is unknown but likely involves environmental and genetic factors.

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can localize to the gastrointestinal tract including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, urgency to rush to the toilet, anal fissures or fistulas and bleeding from the rectum. Alternatively, symptoms may be non-specific and include unexplained fatigue, mouth ulcers, joint aches and rashes.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis usually involves a combination of symptoms in addition to typical findings on investigations.
Investigations include some or all of:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool tests
  • Imaging of the bowel with either intestinal ultrasound, CT or MRI
  • Colonoscopy or gastroscopy with biopsies

What treatments are available for Crohn’s disease?

There are many effective treatments which will be tailored to the nature and severity of the condition and the preference of the patient. The treatments can include oral therapies or intravenous injections and infusions in more moderate-severe cases. The treatment landscape is promising with much research which has greatly improved the life of patients living with Crohn’s disease. The treatment is now aimed at healing the bowel. Please contact our rooms to discuss further.

What lifestyle changes are helpful?

There is no specific diet for Crohn’s disease but it is ideal to avoid processed foods and include adequate fibre including fresh fruit and vegetables. Good fats including olive oil, avocado and fish may be beneficial. There is some evidence to suggest adequate sleep and exercise may decrease the risk of flares.

What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?

If left untreated Crohn’s disease can progress and lead to bowel wall inflammation, perforation and blockage. Some patients are troubled by disease around the anus including fistulas.

Is there a cure for Crohn’s disease?

There is no current cure for Crohn’s disease. However, there is much research into the cause and treatments which has revolutionized the management of this condition. With optimal care a patient’s symptoms can be minimised and complications avoided.