According to The Lancet, in 2017, there were 6.8 million recorded cases of inflammatory bowel diseases or IBDs worldwide. One of the most prominent types of IBD, especially in the US, is Crohn’s disease.
As an IBD, Crohn’s disease can affect different areas of the digestive tract for different people. This inflammation typically spreads into the deeper layers of the bowel system.
Since this is a prevalent digestive disease, it’s important to develop a better understanding of its characteristics and risk factors in order to potentially avoid it.
Parts of the small or large intestine can be involved in Crohn’s disease. The involvement can be continuous, and it may affect multiple segments. In some cases, the disease is exclusive in the colon.
This disease has a variety of symptoms that can range from mild to severe. Most of the time these symptoms manifest gradually. However, there are cases where symptoms present suddenly, without any prior indication. It is also possible to experience periods when no symptoms are felt or remissions.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
- Blood in the stool
- Pain or cramping in the abdomen
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus. This is caused by inflammation from a tunnel into the skin (fistula)
- Reduced appetite and resulting weight loss
- Sores in the mouth
In some cases, people also experience inflammation of skin, eyes, and the joints, kidney stones, inflammation of the bile ducts or liver, anemia, and delayed sexual development in children.
The following are the risk factors for Crohn’s disease.
- Age – Although Crohn’s disease can develop at any age, people are likely to be diagnosed before they are 30.
- Ethnicity – Based on historical data, white people have a higher risk of developing Crohn’s disease. That said, the disease can also affect any ethnic group. Black people who are living in North America and the United Kingdom are becoming increasingly at risk of developing the disease.
- Cigarette smoking – This is a critical risk factor since it is one of the most controllable. It can also cause a host of other conditions that may or may not be related to IBDs.
- Family history – Having a first-degree relative that has Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of developing the same disease. Around 20 percent of people with Crohn’s has a family member with the same disease.
Although there is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease, it can still be managed well with a variety of treatment options that work to lessen both the frequency and the severity of the symptoms.
Starting off the list of treatments are the different medications that are available for Crohn’s disease patients. These can be anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrheal, antibiotics or even more advanced options like biologics that leverage the patient’s immune system to treat the disease.
The exact medications needed for treatment depend on the symptoms patients are experiencing, together with the history of the disease and the severity of the condition. How the body responds to treatment is also a consideration.
Although food choices generally don’t cause Crohn’s disease, they can be triggers for the symptoms. Consulting with a registered dietitian will help patients understand how the food they consume affects their condition. These specialists will also recommend dietary changes that will help the body absorb more nutrients while also reducing the negative effects they can cause.
According to Healthline, a small, placebo-controlled study found that cannabis oil helped relieve Crohn’s patients of the painful symptoms. A lot of patients with different conditions use CBD oil for pain. In this case, the study found that the treatment doesn’t only relieve pain, but it also reduces symptoms and improves the overall quality of life of the patients.