What to Expect If You Have Crohn's Disease

You have Crohn’s disease. Maybe you’ve had it for a long time or maybe you’ve just been diagnosed. You’ve heard and read a lot about it, but you don’t really know what to expect.

The first thing to do is ask your doctor. He can help you understand your condition and provide answers to your questions. It’s a good idea to learn all you can about it.

What Happens To Your Body?

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. That means that your body’s immune system attacks and damages your bowel or gastrointestinal system.

It’s a chronic, meaning long-term, condition that gets in the way of your body’s ability to take in important nutrients. It can also affect the way you digest food and get rid of waste.

Crohn’s can involve any part of your gut. But the ileum, the last part of your small intestine, is most commonly affected.

Because of inflammation, you might have some of these symptoms:

Other parts of your body, like your joints, skin, or eyes, can be affected too.

Symptoms can come and go. You may have periods of times when you feel fine. These times might be followed by flare-ups of the condition.

Remission also is possible. With Crohn’s, remission is sometimes thought to take place when symptoms go away and ulcers in the colon begin to heal.

What You Can Do

You should be able to do just about anything. But you may need to make some adjustments.

Each person is different. Your Crohn’s disease might:

  • Affect a large part of your gastrointestinal system or only a small part.
  • Be mild, moderate, or severe.
  • Go long periods without symptoms or flare-ups.
  • Be fairly easy to control or it may be very difficult.
  • Go into remission.

Depending on the way Crohn’s affects you and your ability to manage it, you may have some challenges.

Continued

Your Symptoms. Although most people with Crohn’s are able to have active lives, symptoms and flare-ups may cause you to miss work, school, or other activities. To avoid that, stick with your treatment plan.

Your Day-to-Day Activities. You may want to plan your activities with your Crohn’s in mind. For example, know where the closest bathroom is.

Your Diet. Stay away from some foods if they make you feel worse. For instance, if milk products or greasy foods cause diarrhea, don’t eat them.

Your Mood. Crohn’s disease, like other chronic conditions, may affect your mood. You may feel more anxious or depressed at times. You may have pain, which also affects your emotions. If your condition starts to get to you, look into seeing a counselor and joining a support group.

If You’re Female, Crohn’s could affect your ability to get pregnant. If it isn’t well controlled, it may cause problems once you are pregnant. Your doctor may recommend a C-section if you have certain complications.

What Are The Risks?

With Crohn’s, you are slightly more likely to develop other health problems. Your doctor will watch you closely to help prevent them. They include:

Colon cancer, if Crohn’s disease affects your colon or large intestine.

Lymphoma. This is a cancer of the lymphatic system, the body’s disease-fighting cells and structures. It’s more likely if you take certain medicines for Crohn’s.

Deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. This means blood clots could form in the veins or lungs.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis. This is serious inflammation and scarring of the bile ducts, the tiny tubes that allow bile to pass through the gastrointestinal system.

Psoriatic arthritis . A form of arthritis that affects some people with psoriasis.

Knowing what to expect with Crohn’s can help you manage it. With the help of your doctor, you can work to avoid problems and possible complications.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by William Blahd, MD on August 18, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Abraham, C. The New England Journal of Medicine, November 19, 2009.

Agency for Healthcare Policy and Research: “Pharmacologic Therapies for the Management of Crohn’s Disease: Comparative Effectiveness.”

American College of Gastroenterology: “ACG Expert Tips on Living Well with IBD.”

American Gastroenterological Association: “AGA Institute Guideline for the Identification, Assessment and Initial Medical Treatment in Crohn’s Disease; Clinical Care Pathway.”

Bray, J. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatolology, published online February 22, 2016.

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “About IBD.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “Everyday Living.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “Living with Crohn’s and Colitis.”

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”

Lichtenstein, G. American Journal of Gastroenterology, published online January 6, 2009.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Crohn’s Disease.”

Papa, A. World Journal of Gastroenterology, published online March 28, 2014.

Strong, S. Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, published online 2015.

Talley, N. American Journal of Gastroenterology, published online April 1, 2011.

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