Crohn’s Disease

Overview

Crohn's disease is a type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes lifelong inflammation of the digestive tract (and sometimes bowel tissue). It can cause severe diarrhea and stomach pain. This autoimmune disease can affect any part inside the digestive system, causing swelling and sores to develop. Often Crohn’s disease affects the last part of the small intestine and the first part of the large intestine. Crohn’s can be treated and managed with medication, dietary changes and sometimes surgery.

Symptoms

Crohn’s disease symptoms may include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps that can be mild or severe and accompanied by vomiting
  • Ulcers that develop in the small intestine and sometimes poke through the walls of the intestine.
  • Blood in the stool
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
If you’re experiencing diarrhea that isn’t going away, or is accompanied by stomach pain or blood in the stool, call your doctor right away to see if you should be tested for Crohn’s.

Diagnosis

In order to test for and make a Crohn’s disease diagnosis, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your symptoms. They may also order one or more of the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Fecal occult blood test to find out if you have blood in your stool
  • Sigmoidoscopy to examine the lower colon and rectum. A flexible tube is inserted in the anus to see inside the digestive system.
  • Colonoscopy: A flexible tube is inserted in the anus to see inside the colon.
  • Scans of the small intestine, such as an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan
  • Barium enema X-ray. An enema coats the lining of the bowls with a dye (barium), which helps show the rectum, colon and part of the intestine on X-rays.
  • Double balloon endoscopy: An endoscope (long tube) is inserted down the throat to see from the esophagus to the colon.

Services & Treatment

Although there’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, there are a variety of treatment options available to decrease the discomfort of the condition. Crohn's disease treatments include medication, lifestyle changes, and in some cases, surgery. Your doctor will talk with you about the most appropriate treatment for you.

Medication

Medications used to treat Crohn’s disease may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Immune-system-suppressor drugs
  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-diarrheal drugs
  • Pain-relieving drugs
  • Iron
  • Calcium and vitamin supplements
  • Laxatives
  • Nutritional treatments - either by injection or feeding tube - to treat malnutrition and let the bowels rest

Surgery

Depending on how severe your symptoms are and your response to treatment, your doctor may advise surgery to help with managing Crohn’s disease. Surgery may include removing part of the digestive tract and reconnecting the remaining portions, widening portions of the intestine that have become narrowed, and/or fixing fistulas and abscesses.

Dietary Guidelines

Making changes to your diet can help alleviate some of the adverse symptoms of Crohn’s disease. There isn't a universally recommended Crohn’s disease diet plan because trigger foods can vary from person to person. However, knowing the foods that trigger your symptoms can be very beneficial. Many people find keeping a food journal to be an effective way to track flare-ups. Ask your doctor for individualized diet tips to help improve your Crohn’s disease symptoms.

Locations

Aurora Health Care operates digestive and bowel health centers in:

  • Burlington
  • Cudahy
  • Green Bay
  • Lake Geneva
  • Menomonee Falls
  • Milwaukee
  • Oshkosh
  • Sheboygan
  • Summit
  • West Allis

– and throughout eastern Wisconsin. Our search tool can help you find a Crohn’s disease specialist near you.

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