Crohn's disease causes the intestines to become inflamed. It affects the whole gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus. The areas that are mostly affected are the colon and the small bowel. Symptoms of Crohn's disease are vomiting, blood in stool, skin problems, cramping, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, and constipation. However, you're not likely to experience all of these symptoms at the same time. Some people may be wondering if the condition can affect their life expectancies. Let's find out.
In the 1950s, statistics showed a 30 to 60 percent chance of dying from a severe attack of Crohn's. With the advent of effective treatments, that chance has dropped to below 3 percent. Crohn's isn't considered a fatal disease anymore. In fact, it doesn't shorten a person's expected lifespan.
Although it is a frightening or at least challenging disease that can totally change your life, you can learn to control your symptoms with proper drug therapy. When you learn to monitor and manage your symptoms, you can enjoy life to the fullest.
Because Crohn's disease changes with time, it is hard to offer a concrete prognosis, though the Crohn's disease life expectancy will not be affected. Some will have only a mild form of the disease while others will have to deal with severe symptoms. The disease's severity can also change after you've been diagnosed. Many people who have Crohn's disease will have periods when the disease is active, known as flare-ups. They will also have times of relief, referred to as remission.
But don't expect to be healed after the first flare-up. Remission, or the reduction or elimination of symptoms, is a good goal of your treatment. The ultimate goal is to heal the portions of your digestive tract that are damaged by the disease, which is called mucosal healing.
Those who have Crohn's disease should know that they are at a five times higher risk of contracting colon cancer than other people. When the Crohn's infects the small intestine, the risk of small bowel cancer is increased also, though it is rare. People who suffer from Crohn's disease need to visit their gastroenterologist regularly to be monitored for signs of any type of intestinal cancer or other adverse developments.
Though Crohn's disease life expectancy won't be affected, you need to learn the methods to manage your symptoms in order to improve your life quality.
People with Crohn's disease are commonly malnourished. Not only is their appetite reduced, but the poor absorption of nutrients and diarrhea deplete the body of vital vitamins, minerals, and fluids as well. It is crucial to eat a well-balanced diet, focusing on adequate amounts of proteins, calories, and essential nutrients from all the food groups.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as many fresh as possible, good quality dairy and eggs (if you're lactose-intolerant, choose a lactose-free milk), and protein from preferably vegetarian sources such as soy and legumes. Otherwise choose the best-quality meat you can find.
There are some types of foods that may worsen your symptoms, especially during flare-ups. Everyone is different as to the foods he or she can handle, but there are some general guidelines to follow:
• Keep hydrated and drink water in small amount every time.
• Avoid high-fiber foods, such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, beans, and bran.
• Avoid spicy foods and go for bland foods.
• Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
• Eat smaller meals frequently.
• Limit dairy if you're lactose intolerant.
• Avoid greasy, fried foods, and fatty sauces, margarine, butter, and heavy cream.
If you are nutrient-deficient, your physician may recommend that you take a good multivitamin or iron supplement. There are other supplements that have been suggested for Crohn's, such as probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, but there isn't enough solid evidence to prove that they work to control the symptoms or prevent relapses.
Patients who are severely malnourished and can't eat normally may need enteral nutrition. Enteral nutrition consists of a feeding tube that is inserted either down the throat, through the nose, or directly into the abdominal wall into the gastrointestinal tract. A nutritional liquid passes through this tube into the stomach.
Though Crohn's disease life expectancy will not be affected, some medicines will help you deal with the condition better. Medications that are used to treat Crohn's disease include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunosuppressives, biologic drugs, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheal medicines. As with all medications, these also come with side effects. Your physician will guide you in choosing the one(s) that is best for you.
Strictureplasty is used when certain segments in the Crohn's inflamed intestine have narrowed because of scarring. These narrowed places are called strictures and are usually in the small intestine sections. The surgery opens the blocked area and widens the narrowed passages.
Resection surgery removes damaged bowel sections. Severely inflamed bowel or colon may perforate, allowing seepage of waste to enter the abdominal cavity. The cut ends of the intestine are reattached. The procedure can be done through an abdominal incision or via laparoscopy.
A colectomy is the removal of the colon and is done when the Crohn's is very severe. The rectum remains after a colectomy, allowing the evacuation of feces in a normal manner.