Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a chronic disease of unknown origin that often causes several flare-ups within the intestines several times over a lifetime. No medical cure exists for Crohn's, and those with the disease should have routine check-ups for the rest of their lives, as they have an increased risk of cancer.
A patient may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Changes in bowel habits (usually diarrhea, but occasionally constipation)
- Weight loss
- Fissures, abscesses, and fistulas of the anorectum
A series of tests can help confirm a diagnosis of Crohn's disease. These include:
- Blood tests
- Stool culture
- Upper endoscopy to examine the esophagus, stomach, and upper gastrointestinal tract.
- Upper GI series, also known as a barium swallow that uses x-rays to show outlines of different parts of the bowel.
- Colonoscopy to examine the anus, rectum, and colon
Medications can treat Crohn’s symptoms, and colon and rectal surgery is reserved for complications such as obstruction or fistula formation with infection. Generally, only involved portions of the bowels are operated on when all other treatment methods fail.