Every year, an estimated 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Crohn's disease. However, many people are uninformed about the disease and, as a result, may go undiagnosed. Here, find out about the symptoms, diagnostic methods, and treatments of Crohn's disease, so you can have a better understanding of the condition.


What is Crohn's Disease?

Crohn's disease is one of two inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs); the other is ulcerated colitis. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) estimates that IBDs affect approximately 1 million Americans, with Crohn's making up about half of that population. Crohn's and colitis should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a common condition in which the intestines cause food to move too quickly or too slowly through the digestive system.


How Can Crohn's Affect Me?

Crohn's disease is a chronic (ongoing) disorder that results in the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and intestines. Common symptoms include:

1. Persistent diarrhea;

2. Abdominal cramping after meals;

3. Severe weight loss;

4. Decrease in appetite;

5. Abdominal pain;

6. Low-grade fever;

7. Rectal bleeding; and

8. Flatulence (gas).

If Crohn's goes undiagnosed for an extended period of time, the symptoms can result in malnutrition due to inadequate dietary intake and poor absorption of nutrients. Vomiting and intestinal ulcers can also occur.


How Can I Find Out If I Have It?

No single test can diagnose Crohn's disease with absolute certainty. Most patients are diagnosed through a series of tests that include a combination of information from the patient's history and physical exams, such as the results of X-rays and endoscopy and pathology tests. A doctor may look at your colon and rectum with a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope.


Because gastrointestinal diseases-such as celiac disease, IBS, ulcerative colitis-tend to mimic each other, the doctor may choose to administer a blood test to rule out other potential problems. With a proper diagnosis, he or she can be more effective in treating the patient.

What Can I Do About It?
There is no cure for Crohn's disease; however, there are ways to help alleviate the symptoms associated with the disease.

1. Nutrition. Good nutrition is important for everybody, but it's especially so for those with Crohn's disease. Because the condition can rob the body of fluids, nutrients, and a variety of vitamins and minerals, reestablishing and sustaining proper nutrition is an integral part of managing the disease.

2. Medication. This may reduce much of the inflammation involved with Crohn's. Some of these drugs are designed to help repair the intestinal wall-easing cramps, diarrhea, and fever.

3. Surgery. The CCFA estimates that up to two-thirds of Crohn's disease patients will require surgery at some point in their lives. Surgery becomes necessary when medication can no longer help improve their symptoms.