Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition, caused by a combination of genetic, bacterial and immune system factors. The condition can be present in any part of the gastrointestinal tract and brings a range of symptoms.
The commonest presentation is abdominal pain and diarrhoea: bleeding from the back passage may occur, along with diarrhoea and sometimes pain, swelling or infection around the anus. Fever, weight loss, tiredness and general poor health can all be symptoms.
Because the disease can cause considerable damage to quality of life and because it can develop at any age, diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease promptly is important. Whilst there is no permanent cure, much can be achieved.
Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s can appear similar to other inflammatory bowel conditions and misdiagnosis is not unknown. Making an accurate diagnosis is critical; this can be assisted by the diagnostic technology and pathology expertise at our London clinics.
Whilst blood and faecal analysis may be useful, visual examination of your digestive tract using endoscopy is more definitive. A further option is to use types of digestive tract imaging, such as ultrasound or MRI scans.
Your medical and family history will also be discussed, as will any related symptoms, such as blood loss via your bowels and the way you are feeling.
People do not respond in exactly the same way to Crohn’s disease. How this is affecting you and your life is as vital as medical symptoms and always part of finding the best solutions.
Treating Crohn’s Disease
The aim of Crohn’s disease treatment is to halt the inflammatory process, allow healing of the intestine, reduce or eliminate symptoms and avoid surgery whenever possible.
Corticosteroids, such as budesonide or prednisone can often control inflammation but have undesirable side effects and are best avoided if possible.
A variety of medications can reduce the inflammatory response, including immunosuppressants such as azathioprine or antimetabolites and if necessary, biologic medicines including anti- TNF antibodies (Infliximab or Adalimumab) , or new drugs such as Vedolizumab, or Ustekinumab.
Other drugs which may help include antibiotics. The nature of your condition and the location of the inflammation will be significant factors in treatment decisions.
Beyond a range of medication, dietary therapy could be valuable in some cases. This may mean switching to a low fat, low fibre diet, although once again, solutions can be quite individual.
The same applies where Crohn’s disease has been a long term issue and damaged the digestive tract or nearby tissues. Whilst surgery may be required, I will always discuss all the options and approaches with you.