Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel diseases for which there is no cure. In the developed world it affects 3.2 people in a thousand, but is not as common in Asia and Africa. It can be horribly debilitating, but some therapies have been known to both bring some relief as well as bring about long-term remission.
There is no known cause of Crohn's disease currently, only speculation. Genetics are likely involved, as the disease is more common in people who have family members also suffering from it. Some scientists surmise that Crohn's disease is a flawed immune system response to an invading virus or bacterium.
The disease causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to malnutrition, weight loss, abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, and fatigue. Crohn's disease affects different parts of the tract in different cases, and the symptoms can vary from patient to patient.
The symptoms usually develop gradually and may include diarrhea, abdominal pain/cramping, mouth sores, fever, blood in the stool, fatigue, Reduced appetite and weight loss. Crohn's disease sufferers may also experience pain or drainage near or around the anus due to inflammation from a tunnel into the skin, or fistula.
Your doctor has no single way to diagnose you for Crohn's disease, unfortunately. Instead he will likely adopt the Occam's Razor approach of ruling out everything else that might be causing your symptoms first. The procedures he will use may include a colonoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, and computer tomography.
If you are diagnosed with Crohn's disease, your doctor will usually introduce an anti-inflammatory series of drugs into your regimen, as a first round of treatment. These may include corticosteroids for the short-term, to induce remission.
Immune system suppressing drugs are what your doctor will likely prescribe for your long-term maintenance. Like corticosteroids, these drugs will also reduce inflammation, but they target your immune system, which produces the substances that cause inflammation.
To address a few of the more distressing symptoms of Crohn's disease, your doctor may prescribe anti-diarrheals, like psyllium powder, pain relievers, iron supplements, and B-12 shots.
Nutrition therapy is yet another tract your doctor will place you upon, as you will want your bowel to rest as often as it is able. This may take the form of delivering your nutrients via a feeding tube or intravenous injection. Your doctor will detail for you a low-fiber diet to reduce the size and number of your bowel movements.
Surgery is a final option if nutrition and immune system suppression do not sufficiently relieve your symptoms. Know, however, that the benefits of surgery for Crohn's disease are usually temporary, with the disease recurring near and around where the surgical procedure took place.