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living with crohn's disease

Understanding Crohn’s Disease

What is Crohn’s Disease?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the bowels in which the gastrointestinal tract is most affected.  The gastrointestinal tract refers to the group consisting of mouth, esophagus, stomach, both small and large intestine, and anus, although symptoms can occur which affects a sufferer’s skin, joints and eyes.  It is not contagious, and you cannot contract Crohn’s through your actions or by an inadequate diet.

How does Crohn’s develop?

First of all, Crohn’s is not contagious, so you didn’t “catch” it from someone or by someplace you’ve been.  You cannot get Crohn’s through an inadequate diet.  Although the exact causes aren’t widely understood, it’s generally thought that Crohn’s disease may be genetically inherited (so if someone in your family has Crohn’s it’s likely that you’ll be more susceptible to getting it.).  Your individual immune system also plays a part; since Crohn’s is thought to be a hyperactive or overactive immune system, sometimes environmental factors beyond your control trigger an abnormal immune response.  This leads to a chronic condition of raw and inflamed intestines, and can lead directly to Crohn’s.

The disease most often affects individuals between the ages of 15 and 35. But it can potentially affect anyone at any age.  It affects both, men and women,  equally. Although interestingly enough, there have been studies showing anover average number of Crohn’s sufferers among the Ashkenazi Jews.

Two reasons to get Crohn’s related testing & common tests:

You’ll want to see your doctor to determine whether you have Crohn’s in the first place. Also, upon a confirmed diagnosis, to re-evaluate your Crohn’s disease on a regular basis.

Common tests are through either blood or imaging.  The blood tests involve a routine procedure to detect infection, anemia, inflammation. Also, to identify (and subsequently treat) any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.  There are also fecal blood tests (to determine if you have blood in your stool). Also, antibody blood tests (to look for antibodies and proteins that will indicate to your doctor which diseases your body is currently trying to fight off).

Imaging tests can include conventional x-rays, contrast x-rays, endoscopy, and endoscopy ultrasound.

Things to do before visiting your doctor:

In order to have all of the pertinent information you’ll need to help your doctor with a diagnosis, there are a few things you can do.  Make a list of all current medications (including herbal varieties) that you’re currently taking.  Keep a diary of your symptoms, how long they lasted, and how severe or mild each one was.  You might also keep track of things you missed because of your symptoms. For example, did you stay home from work, or miss a meal due to discomfort?  If you’re forgetful, or if you’re worried that you’ll be too emotional to relay or receive important information, it might help to bring a friend or family member with you.  The better your doctor understands your symptoms and how they affect you, the better he or she can not only diagnose you. But also prescribe appropriate relief.

Most of all, remember that although some details might lead to embarrassment, your doctor is a professional who deals with many situations like these on a daily basis.  Don’t be afraid to share details!