Living with Crohn's Disease
Sandeep Mukherjee, MD, MB, BCh
Simmy Bank, MD, MB, ChB
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
BS Anand, MD
Venkatachala Mohan, MD
Living with Crohn's Disease Overview
If you have Crohn's disease, you are already aware of the many challenges you face. If your disease was only recently diagnosed or you have a loved one with the disease, you may be struggling to understand what this disease will mean to you and your family. Here are some points that may help you understand Crohn's disease, and tips to make a plan in living with this chronic illness.
Crohn's disease is a chronic illness. Crohn's disease will be a part of you for the rest of your life. Adjusting to that alone is difficult for many people. It can be very hard to accept that you will be living not only with the effects of the disease, but also with the unpredictability of disease flare-ups, limitations of your activity, frequent doctor visits, uncomfortable medical tests, and medications and their side effects.
Crohn's disease is a potentially serious disease. Inflammation in the digestive tract can cause serious complications such as bleeding, holes in the intestinal wall (perforation), pockets of infection (abscesses), and abnormal connections between the digestive tract and other parts of the body (fistulas). Crohn's disease also can cause inflammation and damage to other parts of the body, such as the joints, skin, eyes, mouth, liver, and bile ducts. You may need to spend time in the hospital if you have a severe flare up or complication.
Nothing you did or didn't do caused you to have Crohn's disease. There is no evidence that diet, stress, medications, or other lifestyle factors cause Crohn's disease. The disease seems to be caused by some trigger in susceptible people. We don't know what makes a person susceptible, but it is probably genetic. We also don't know what the trigger is. It may be infection with a specific bacteria or virus.
There are many treatment options available to manage Crohn's disease, although there currently is no cure for the disease. The critical part of treatment is reducing inflammation, which helps to relieve the symptoms, and decrease the risk of complications in most people. Several different types of anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and biologic therapies are available. If one drug doesn't work, another probably will. Surgery is another treatment option if medications do not help.
You are not alone. About 1 million people in the United States have Crohn's disease. There are other people who understand exactly what you are going through and want to help. A number of groups exist to educate the public and policy makers, raise funds for research, and provide support and assistance to people affected with the disease.
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