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Crohn's and Colitis Relief

The Challenge of Living with Crohn's Disease and Colitis

Colitis and Crohn's disease are certainly challenging to live with. They require that the sufferer not just manage his or her pain, which can be considerable, but manage how they live their lives overall. Both are diseases that affect the gastrointestinal system.

Crohn's Disease

What is Crohn's disease? Crohn's disease is an inflammatory condition of the GI tract. It can affect any area in the GI tract from the mouth to the anus though the overwhelming majority of people have the disease in both the small and large intestine. In Crohn's disease, the inflammation extends throughout the entire wall of the intestine. This inflammation can cause the wall of the intestine to thicken to the point that it causes an obstruction. Also, about 30 percent of people who suffer from Crohn's disease develop a fistula. This is an unnatural opening between two of the body's organs. The fistula can be internal and involve two loops of the small intestine, or it can be external when an abscess ruptures through the abdominal wall.

The symptoms of Crohn's disease are:

  • diarrhea
  • bloody stool
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • cramping on the lower part of the abdomen.

With Crohn's disease, the cramps usually occur on the right side of the body while with colitis they occur on the left side. The complications of Crohn's disease can involve bodily systems that a person wouldn't think are involved with the GI tract. They can include inflammation of the eye and the spine and disorders of the skin.

Colitis

Colitis is sometimes called ulcerative colitis because it eventually causes ulcers to form in the lining of the rectum and the colon, or large intestine. Colitis usually attacks the left side of the colon but can involve the entire colon. Colitis symptoms are much like the symptoms of Crohn's disease, even though the inflammation only affects the lining of the colon. The condition is permanent and the sufferer is subject to sudden attacks of the symptoms that might restrict their lifestyle. Fistulas don't occur with colitis, but the complications are like the complications of Crohn's disease.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of both Crohn's disease and colitis is difficult and require such tests as stool cultures, X-ray and biopsies of the colon.

Treatment

Both Crohn's disease and colitis are not curable at this time, but treatments do exist to help reduce the inflammation and the discomfort of the conditions. The patient may be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs like sulfasalazine, mesalamine and corticosteroids. If people don't respond to these drugs, they can also be given drugs that suppress the immune system like azathioprine and infliximab. Antibiotics are sometimes given to people with Crohn's disease to repair abscesses and fistulas.