If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you understand the impact this chronic, inflammatory bowel condition has on your day-to-day existence and quality of life. This autoimmune condition can be unpredictable, leaving you feeling normal one day and exhausted from symptoms the next.
The signs and symptoms of Crohn’s vary based on the nature of your condition and other factors, but may include:
- Chronic or persistent diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rectal bleeding
Digestive specialist and board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, cares for patients in and around the Hollywood, Florida, area at the state-of-the-art Rivas Digestive Center. From diagnosis through flare-up management, Dr. Rivas is with you every step of the way.
While research into this troublesome disease is ongoing, there are some key things you should know if you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s. Keep reading to learn more.
There are different types of Crohn’s disease
While people generally refer to Crohn’s disease as one condition, there are actually five subtypes based on the location of the digestive tract most affected by the disease. Here’s a closer look:
Ileocolitis Crohn’s disease
The most common type of Crohn's disease patients experience is called ileocolitis. This subtype involves your colon and the lower small intestine. The bouts of inflammation and irritation in these areas can trigger pain in the midsection or lower right quadrant and/or diarrhea.
Ileitis Crohn’s disease
The subtype named ileitis triggers irritation and inflammation of the ileum, the last part of your small intestine. Ileitis shares the same signs and symptoms as ileocolitis, but can also lead to inflammatory abscesses, or fistulas, in the lower-right region of your abdomen.
Jejunoileitis Crohn’s disease
Jejunoileitis Crohn’s disease affects your jejunum, or the second part of your small intestine. This subtype often causes abdominal pain after eating, bloating, general stomach discomfort, and diarrhea.
Granulomatous colitis Crohn’s disease
Granulomatous colitis impacts your colon, the main part of your large intestine. With this subtype, stomach pain, fistulas, and ulcers are common side effects and symptoms.
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease
Gastroduodenal Crohn’s affects the first section of your small intestine, or the duodenum. This subtype is most commonly associated with symptoms such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and nausea.
Crohn’s symptoms usually begin early
Even if you’re not officially diagnosed with Crohn’s disease until adulthood, most people realize their symptoms began in childhood—even if they weren’t recognized at the time. Often people with Crohn’s had diarrhea more often or stomach pain as a kid, though it may have been disregarded.
Because this autoimmune disease can present differently in different people, it’s not always easy for parents and pediatricians to recognize the signs of the disease—especially because stomach bugs and belly pain are common in childhood.
You’ll probably need to pay attention to diet
Once you’re diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, chances are good that you’ll need to pay better attention to your diet and nutrition. Since the condition affects your appetite and makes it more difficult to absorb nutrients, water, and vitamins and minerals, it’s important to eat well and figure out what foods you tolerate best.
While you’ll most likely be able to eat foods you enjoy, many people with Crohn’s find certain foods can trigger symptoms, like dairy, greasy, fatty foods, nuts and seeds, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners. However, everyone is different, so it’s important to pay attention to how different foods affect you.
Crohn’s can affect more than your tummy
Since Crohn’s disease causes damage to the intestines, where important nutrients get absorbed, it can lead to other issues if not well managed, including:
- Skin tags and rashes
- Eye and vision issues
- Joint pain and arthritis
- Gallstones and kidney stones
- Growth problems in children
- Mouth sores
- Low energy and fatigue
There’s no cure for Crohn’s yet, but with his expert care, Dr. Rivas can help ensure you and your health thrive despite Crohn’s disease.
Some people with Crohn’s benefit from surgery
Making dietary changes and medication to address problematic symptoms are the primary ways to manage Crohn’s disease. However, because this autoimmune condition is progressive, most Crohn’s patients eventually require surgery.
When your medicines and diet are no longer enough to control your symptoms, or if you develop an issue that affects your health, like an intestinal obstruction or fistula, Dr. Rivas may recommend surgery.
While every surgery is customized for each patient, the procedure typically involves removing any diseased areas and joining the healthy sections of the bowel together. The good news is that the surgery can put your Crohn’s into remission for many years, though it often eventually returns.
To learn more about living with Crohn’s disease, schedule an appointment online or over the phone at the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida.