Crohn’s disease is one form of inflammatory bowel disease (the other being ulcerative colitis). It is driven by the immune system, and has a complex set of causes that include inherited (genes), environmental (for example smoking), and those that relate to the bacteria that live in your gut (microbiome).
What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?
Common symptoms include a combination of:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Other symptoms can also occur, including:
- Pain or discharge around the anus / bottom
- Fevers or sweats
- Mouth ulcers
- Joint pains
- Red or painful eyes
If you have had blood or stool tests they may reveal:
- Raised inflammatory markers eg CRP
- Elevated faecal calprotectin
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?
There is no specific test that can diagnose Crohn’s disease. The diagnosis is reached through a combination of:
- A careful history of your symptoms
- Blood and / or stool tests
- Endoscopic and biopsy results – usually a colonoscopy
- Imaging – usually a small bowel MRI scan
This information needs to be considered by an expert gastroenterologist in order to determine the correct diagnosis.
How is Crohn’s disease treated?
Crohn’s disease is typically treated using a combination of medication and surgery. The medications aim to safely suppress the unwanted inflammatory response. These medications include tablets (eg steroids) and injectable drugs (commonly called ‘biologics’). Thankfully there are now a variety of medical options available, and it is very important that you see a specialist with the knowledge and experience to help you choose the correct medication. Your specialist also needs the experience to guide you when surgery is required in addition to, or instead of, medication.
How can I prevent Crohn’s disease?
As yet there I no reliable way to prevent Crohn’s disease. Smoking does increase the risk, so avoiding or stopping smoking can help. There is no specific dietary recommendation but it is reasonable to try and follow standard healthy eating advice.