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Crohn's disease treatment

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract. Crohn’s disease flare-ups can be very disruptive to daily life and lead to further complications, but it is possible to control the symptoms with treatment.

If you are experiencing symptoms such as frequent diarrhoea, a change in bowel habits, stomach cramps, weight loss (or loss of appetite) or blood in your faeces, the first step is to contact your GP. If they believe you may have Crohn’s disease, they will be able to refer you to a specialist gastroenterologist for further tests and treatment.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a type of IBD. It most commonly affects the small and large intestines, but it can affect any area of the GI tract, including the mouth.

When an intestine becomes inflamed, its walls can start to thicken. This can typically result in pain and diarrhoea. Crohn’s disease may lead to further complications, such as abscesses, infection, bowel obstruction, weight loss and malnutrition.

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

The most common symptom of Crohn’s disease is diarrhoea, which may be sudden. You might also experience abdominal cramps, mucus or blood in your stools, tiredness and fatigue, weight loss and mouth ulcers.

In its early stages, Crohn’s disease can have similar symptoms to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, symptoms such as weight loss, bloody stools or significant bouts of diarrhoea are not typical of IBS.

What are the other types of IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Other IBDs include ulcerative colitis (the most common type of IBD), microscopic colitis and indeterminate colitis.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

Most patients are diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in their 20s or early 30s. No one knows for sure what causes it, but experts have suggested that genetics, smoking, previous stomach bugs, changes to the gut biome and issues with the immune system could play a role.

When to speak to your GP

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to speak to your GP. Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition, but it is possible to manage your symptoms with effective treatment.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

When you visit your GP, they will want to discuss your symptoms, diet and family history. They may also ask you to provide a blood or stool sample so that they can look for signs of inflammation or infection.

If your doctor suspects you have Crohn’s disease, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist (a gut specialist) for further tests, such as a colonoscopy, biopsy, MRI or CT scan.

Diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease

At Sulis Hospital Gastroenterology Unit, our multidisciplinary team of consultants, nurses, nurse endoscopists and dieticians specialise in abdominal issues. They can help you to better understand your diagnosis and support you in finding a treatment plan that gives you more control over your symptoms.

You’ll be welcomed into a light and airy hospital that has been designed to make patients feel as comfortable as possible.

The consultant will want to review your GP records and any test results before getting to know more about your symptoms and experience. They may then send you for further tests, such as a CT scan, X-ray (which may involve a barium enema) or colonoscopy to rule out other conditions

A colonoscopy is a test that enables a consultant to look inside your colon (large intestine). It is a type of endoscopy that involves inserting a small camera into the rectum through a tube. At Sulis Hospital, we have a specialist JAG-accredited endoscopy service, which ensures you experience the highest standards of safety and care during your examination.

Before the procedure, you will be given laxatives to empty your bowels. You may also be given a sedative to help relax you on the day. In addition to taking a closer look at your colon, it is possible to take biopsies during a colonoscopy.

Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition, but there are treatments available that can help to reduce the inflammation and give you more control over your symptoms. Effective treatment can even give patients periods of remission, during which the inflammation in the bowel may start to heal.

Medicines to treat Crohn’s disease include steroids to reduce inflammation, immunosuppressants and biological medicines. Your consultant will discuss the treatment options with you and recommend a route forward.

There are a number of reasons why a consultant may recommend a surgical route. For example, if the medicines are not working for you or if you have experienced complications due to Crohn’s.

If Crohn’s disease is mainly affecting the colon, it may be possible to have surgery to remove all or part of the diseased area. During a colectomy, the function of the colon is replaced with a bag (ileostomy), or an internal pouch is created using the small intestine (ileoanal pouch).

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the GI tract, so this type of surgery may not prevent your symptoms from returning in the future. The gastroenterologist will discuss the risks and potential benefits of surgery with you, enabling you to make an informed decision.

Experience outstanding patient care at Sulis Hospital

At Sulis Hospital Gastroenterology Unit, we provide private patients with access to expert consultant gastroenterologists who are highly experienced at diagnosing and treating issues within the digestive system.

Sulis Hospital has been rated outstanding for care by the Care Quality Commission, and we pride ourselves on creating a relaxing and welcoming environment for our patients. Get in touch today to find out more.

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Combining a calming hospital environment with outstanding patient care so you can recover as quickly as possible.

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