Crohn’s disease might cause the most discomfort of all the major bowel disorders — pain, severe diarrhea, weight loss, major fatigue, malnutrition and inflamed skin, eyes and joints, among other symptoms. That’s also because it is an autoimmune disorder as well, in which your body attacks its own healthy tissues.
While there currently isn’t a cure for Crohn’s – it can be effectively managed, and the board-certified gastroenterologists are here to help. We specialize in early detection and diagnosis, and provide a full range of treatment options to help keep symptoms in check and avoid serious complications.
Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease
A blood test is the go-to method for identifying Crohn’s disease. Your doctor may also order a fecal occult blood test (“occult” in this case meaning “hidden,” not supernatural) to see if you have blood in your stool. Often those tests are combined with a colonoscopy, CT or MRI scan and/or endoscopy.
The exact cause of Crohn’s is unknown, but there are certain factors that may increase your risk. It tends to be a young person’s disease; most often found before a person’s 30th birthday. Ethnicity is involved, too; chances of getting it are higher if you are of Eastern European Ashkenazi (Jewish) descent, or if you’re an African-American in the U.S. or United Kingdom. It’s also seen more frequently in cities than rural areas, so environment might be a factor as well.
Taking Control of Crohn’s
It’s common to treat Crohn’s disease with medications that relieve symptoms. Other drugs to suppress the immune system help keep it from attacking healthy tissue. Often these will be prescribed along with pain relievers, iron supplements, vitamin B-12 shots, antibiotics, and calcium/vitamin D supplements.
If part of the digestive tract has been damaged, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove the injured portion and reconnect the healthy sections. Changing your diet can help, too—eating smaller meals, taking in less fat, drinking plenty of water and limiting foods that could irritate your digestive tract, such as dairy, fiber, and spicy foods. We can also connect you to a registered dietitian at Central Maine Healthcare, who can help design a customized meal plan.