Crohns Disease Symptoms: Etiology & Treatments

Crohn’s disease is attributed to the inflammation of the mucosa (lining of the gastrointestinal tract). It is a member of the inflammatory bowel disease group, along with ulcerative colitis. They both differ in that Crohn’s disease is known to affect the entire human gastrointestinal tract, whereas ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestines.

Functions Of The Gastrointestinal Tract

 

The gastrointestinal tract has several primary functions that are very important in the absorption and breakdown of foods and the storage and elimination of the wastes. The salivary glands produce mucus, which allows food to pass through the digestive tract with ease.

The digestive system is responsible for the absorption of foods. Nutrients are removed from the food and distributed throughout the body by the digestion process. The absorption of food begins in the salivary glands, which produces amylase (enzyme, also produced in the pancreas), which acts as a catalyst (speeds up the chemical reaction) in the hydrolysis (degrades or decomposes carbohydrates by reacting with water) process, which basically converts starch carbohydrates to glucose (sugar).

Digestive Motility is the contraction and relaxation (peristalsis) of the stomach and smooth muscles to allow food to move through the digestive tract.

The stomach stores food and starts the digestion of proteins

Small intestines (duodenum, jejunum, and ileum) is responsible for the absorption of nutrients from food

Large Intestines is responsible for the absorption of water and stores wastes (feces), until defecation (expulsion of feces).

 

Etiology

 

Crohn’s disease is potentially caused by an abnormal reaction of the immune system. The immune system abnormally distinguishes foods and healthy bacteria as an antigen (foreign substance), which causes an immune response. Leukocytes (WBCs) are released into the gastrointestinal tract and attack foods. The leukocytes will build up in the mucosa, which leads to inflammation and severe complications if not treated.

 

Signs & Symptoms

 

Abdominal Pain with cramping

Loss of appetite

Unexplained weight loss

Anemia (decreased RBCs in the blood)

Anal Fissures

Chronic Diarrhea

Fever

Hematochezia (blood in the stool, tarry colored stools)

Aphthous Stomatitis (canker sores), which causes oral ulcerations

 

Diagnosis

 

Barium X-ray

GI and small bowel series (set of X-rays)

Colonoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy

Virtual colonoscopy (Computed tomography)

Colon Biopsy

Cross-sectional imaging modality (MRI)

 

Treatments

 

There are many different types of medications that are used to treat the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Most of these are only to treat the acute symptoms and more aggressive forms of treatment may be required for long lasting complications.

Antidiarrheal Drugs (Imodium)

Aminosalicylates (Dipentum, azulfidine) are used to inflammation and potentially can increase the remission period.

Surgical Resection to remove inflamed bowel

Intravenous hydration (IV fluids)

Nasogastric decompression may be used to remove stomach content (severe cases of vomiting)

Enteral Feeding (for feeding and medication administration)

 

Relapse And Remission

 

An individual with Crohn’s disease will have periods of remission that can last up to two years. This type of remission should not be mistaken for the cancer remission. Crohn’s disease remission is more like a recurring remission, which means these symptoms will return, after a certain period of time.