What is crohn's disease?

Crohn's Disease

Crohn's disease in children: Overview

Crohn's disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease. Parts of the digestive tract get swollen and irritated. The tract may have deep sores called ulcers. Crohn's disease usually occurs in the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine. But it can occur anywhere from the mouth to the anus.

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are belly pain, diarrhea, fever, and weight loss. Some people may have constipation. Crohn's disease also sometimes causes problems with the joints, eyes, or skin. Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe. The disease can also go into remission. This means it is not active and there are no symptoms.

Bad attacks often have to be treated in the hospital. There your child can get medicines and liquids through a tube in a vein (I.V.). This gives the digestive system time to rest and recover.

Talk with your doctor about the best treatments. Treatments include:

  • Medicines that help prevent or treat flare-ups of the disease.
  • Surgery to remove part of the bowel. Surgery is done if there is an abnormal opening (fistula) in the bowel, an abscess, or a bowel obstruction. In some cases, surgery is needed if medicines don't work. But symptoms can return to other areas of the intestines after surgery.

Learning good self-care can help your child reduce symptoms and manage Crohn's disease.

Teens can be especially frustrated by this disease. Flare-ups may leave them feeling more dependent on their parents than they want to be. They may feel different from their friends. Counseling may help teens who are having a hard time coping with the disease.

Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease. It causes swelling, inflammation, and deep sores in the lining of your digestive tract. It usually affects the small and large intestine. But it can attack any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.

Crohn's can cause diarrhea, belly pain, and weight loss. Medicines can help control inflammation and keep the disease from causing symptoms.

It's not clear what causes Crohn's disease, but it may run in families.

What happens when you have Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is an ongoing (chronic) condition that may flare up throughout your life. It affects different people in different ways. Some people may have only mild symptoms. Others may have severe symptoms or problems caused by Crohn's that, in rare cases, may be life-threatening.

Things that may cause Crohn's disease symptoms to flare up include medicines, infections, hormonal changes, lifestyle changes, and smoking.

The disease can also go into remission. This means that it is not active and you have no symptoms.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?

The main symptoms of Crohn's disease are belly pain and diarrhea (sometimes with blood). Losing weight without trying is another common sign.

Less common symptoms include mouth sores, bowel blockages, anal tears (fissures), and openings (fistulas) between organs.

Infections, hormonal changes, smoking, medicines, and lifestyle changes can cause your symptoms to flare up. Your symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.

How is Crohn's disease treated?

Your treatment will depend on your symptoms and how bad they are. The main treatment for Crohn's disease is medicine. Mild symptoms may be treated with over-the-counter medicines to stop diarrhea. You may also use prescription medicines to treat and prevent symptoms. Some people need other treatments, such as surgery.

How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and do a physical exam. You may also have X-rays and lab tests to find out if you have Crohn's disease. You may have tests that look inside the colon, and you may have a biopsy.

How are medicines used to treat Crohn's disease?

Medicines usually are the treatment of choice for Crohn's disease. They can control or prevent inflammation in the intestines. They help to:

  • Relieve symptoms.
  • Promote healing of damaged tissues.
  • Put the disease into remission. And they can keep it from flaring up again.
  • Postpone the need for surgery.

They include:

  • Aminosalicylates. Your doctor may recommend these medicines during a flare-up or at other times.
  • Antibiotics. These treat infections that can occur with Crohn's disease.
  • Biologics. Your doctor may have you try these medicines if other medicines for Crohn's disease haven't worked for you.
  • Corticosteroids. They usually stop symptoms and put the disease in remission. But they aren't used as long-term treatment to keep symptoms from coming back.
  • Immune modulators. You may take these if other medicines don't work, if your symptoms come back when you stop taking steroid medicines, or if your symptoms come back often, even with treatment.

How can you care for yourself when you have Crohn's disease?

Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Don't take anti-inflammatory medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). They may make your symptoms worse. Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse. And don't smoke.

Crohn's disease

Crohn's disease in part of the digestive tract.

Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive tract (which goes from the mouth to the anus). Most common is Crohn's disease that affects the ileum (the part of the small intestine that joins the large intestine). But Crohn's disease can be in multiple places in the digestive tract at the same time.

What causes Crohn's disease?

Doctors don't know what causes Crohn's disease. You may get it because your immune system has an abnormal response to normal bacteria in your intestine. Other kinds of bacteria and viruses may also play a role in causing the disease. Crohn's disease may run in families. Smoking puts you at a higher risk.

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is a lifelong inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In Crohn's disease, parts of the digestive system get swollen and have deep sores called ulcers. This can result in symptoms such as belly pain and diarrhea.

Crohn's disease usually is found in the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine. But it can develop anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.

Crohn's disease may be defined by the part of the digestive tract involved, such as the rectum and anus (perianal disease) or the area where the small intestine joins the large intestine (ileocecal disease).

What other health problems can happen when you have Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease may cause sores, or ulcers, that tunnel through the intestine and into the nearby tissue. These are often around the anus and rectum. These tunnels, called fistulas, are a common problem with Crohn's disease. They may get infected. Crohn's disease can also cause anal fissures. These are narrow tears that extend from the muscles that control the anus (anal sphincters) up into the anal canal.

In long-term Crohn's disease, scar tissue may replace some of the inflamed or ulcerated intestines. This scar tissue can form blockages (bowel obstructions) or narrowed areas (strictures). These can prevent stool from passing through the intestines. Blockages in the intestines also can be caused by inflammation and swelling, which may improve with medicines. Sometimes blockages can only be treated with surgery.

Sometimes symptoms of Crohn's disease develop outside the digestive tract in other parts of the body. This can include in the eyes, liver, blood, and bones.

Crohn's disease in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of dehydration, such as:
    • Dry eyes and a dry mouth.
    • Passing only a little urine.
    • Feeling thirstier than usual.
  • Your child has new or worse belly pain.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has new or more blood in their stools.
  • Your child cannot pass stools or gas.
  • Your child has pus draining from the area around the anus or pain and swelling in the anal area.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child has new or worse symptoms, such as diarrhea gets worse.
  • Your child loses weight or doesn't gain weight.
  • You or your child is struggling to manage Crohn's disease.
  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

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