It is believed that persons with Crohns Disease have a genetic tendency (that is to say part of Crohns Disease can run in families) and that the disease is triggered by an inciting event (that is to say that something happens to make the symptoms start). In some cases, this can be another illness. In other cases, it can be stress.
Crohns Disease is NOT communicable, which means that you cannot “give it” to someone else who is in close contact with you.
For many patients, they are the only person in their family to have Crohns Disease.
This is thought to occur when there is a mutation that occurs spontaneously in these persons that no one else in their family has. If patients have others in the family that have Crohns, it is more likely that a mutation that already occurred in the family has been passed on to them.
While inflammatory bowel disease does occur most frequently in Europeans and North Americans, persons of all racial and ethnic backgrounds have been affected by Crohns.
Crohns Disease is diagnosed based on intestinal biopsies. This means that you would have undergone an endoscopy and had biopsies that demonstrate that you have the disease.
There is no known cure for Crohns Disease at this time. Therefore, even if you do not have symptoms of Crohns Disease for a long period of time, you must be monitored by a physician for life and have regular checkups with a specialist.
The symptoms of Crohns Disease often differ by person. Each case is special.
- A common symptom of disease activity (usually called a “flare”) is blood in the stool.
- Persons with Crohns Disease can also just present with fatigue, poor growth and short stature, a rash or poorly healing wound, or joint pain and canker sores.
- Laboratory changes may occur. Your doctor may order blood tests when you have these symptoms.
Remember, Crohns Disease can cause inflammation at other parts of the body as well as the bowel – such as joints, skin, and eyes.
Usually your initial symptoms tend to “stick” with you and you often have the same symptoms over and over again. However, sometimes, your disease can change. Either way it is important to monitor your symptoms with your doctor over time so you know what is happening.
It is not known exactly what causes disease “flares” or when the disease acts up and the inflammation leads to symptoms such as:
- Bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
In some cases, it is another illness that triggers the disease. In other cases, stress or something else in the environment may trigger a flare. However, in many cases, we just do not know.
In some cases, you may be able to come off medications, but this is rare. Most patients have to take some medications to prevent the disease from “flaring” or becoming worse at times. You should discuss this issue with your doctor from time to time. The situation may change.
Diet only therapies can be used to treat Crohns Disease. This therapy is called enteral nutrition and it has few side effects or toxicities. In addition, there are foods that trigger disease flare-ups in some people and foods that we recommend patients to avoid during a disease flare-up (such as dairy).
A regular, healthy and balanced nutritional regimen is always recommended for patients with Crohns.
It is important for you to let your medical team know early when you are running into trouble. If you wait until your symptoms are severe, you are more likely to have to come into the hospital for further testing, treatment or even hospitalization.