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Crohn’s Disease 101

If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with, or think you might have, Crohn’s disease – you’re likely feeling a bit confused about what is fact and what is myth regarding this condition. Dr. Baker is here to help separate fact from fiction and alleviate some of your concerns.

What are some symptoms of Crohn’s Disease?
One of the things that makes Crohn’s Disease so confusing and potentially distressing is that everyones experience with it is different. Some people will have almost all of these symptoms, some may have just a few. For some patients, these symptoms are constant when for others they happen sporadically. Here is a list of symptoms typically associated with Crohn’s Disease.

–          Abdominal pain

–          Abscesses and localized infections

–          Bloating

–          Cramps

–          Diarrhea

–          Fever

–          Fistulas – which are abnormal tubes or openings between two hollow organs.

–          Gas

–          Inflammation of eyes, joints and skin

–          Intestinal obstructions

–          Weight loss

What are the stages of Crohn’s Disease?
Typically, Crohn’s Disease is thought of as having three levels of intensity, referred to as stages. They are:

–          Mild to Moderate: This patient can usually eat food normally and without dehydration, fevers, stomach pain, intestinal blockage or losing more than 10% of their overall body weight.

–          Moderate to Severe: This patient does not respond well to treatment for mild to moderate Crohn’s. They may also have high fevers, stomach pain, abdominal tenderness, nausea, vomiting anemia and more significant loss of weight.

–          Severe: This patient continues to show symptoms even with steroidal medication. They have high fevers, vomiting, intestinal blockage and/or abscess.

How to minimize flare-ups
Crohn’s Disease is a condition which comes and goes. When your symptoms are active, you are said to be having a flare-up. When your symptoms are inactive or minimal, you are said to be in remission. Living comfortably with Crohn’s is dependent on keeping your flare-ups to a minimum. Here are some techniques for keeping yours at bay:

–          Avoid your trigger foods: For some people, certain foods trigger their symptoms more often than others. It’s important to learn what yours are and to avoid them as much as possible. This may mean asking for changes in the cooking technique when eating out, or in some cases it might mean avoiding eating out at all for a while.

–          Don’t skip your medications: It can be tempting to stop taking your medication when you’re feeling better, but that is one of the worst things you can do. Not taking your medication actually increases your risk of future flare-ups.

–          Avoid OTC (over the counter) medications: Make sure you speak with your doctor before taking any over the counter medications to manage symptoms. You may actually be doing more harm than good. Some of these medications have been shown to cause ulcers and sores of the intestinal tract.

–          Quit smoking: Smoking interferes with the remission process, can make Crohn’s more active and is generally bad for you. This is of special importance to patients who have had surgery for their Crohn’s Disease as it interferes with the healing process, increases the risk of blood clots, and leads to flare ups happening sooner than they do in non-smokers.

For more information about Crohn’s Disease, how to manage it, or if you think you may be suffering with it – please contact the office.