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Crohn's Disease

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Crohn's Disease is a serious, chronic, inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract that affects approximately 6,000 people in Ireland. There is no medical or surgical cure for Crohn's Disease and there are few treatment options for patients suffering with this chronic condition.
New research conducted by reveals that one in five (21%) Crohn's disease patients are coping very poorly or poorly with the condition.
Today Professor Diarmuid O'Donoghue, Consultant in Gastroenterology, is here to tell us more about Crohn's disease, it's symptoms, causes, and treatment. 23 year old Brian Smith is also in studio to tell us about his experience of living with Crohn's disease

A new patient education programme called 'Life and IBD' (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) has been launched. Also the website has been updated.

Professor Diarmuid O'Donoghue, Consultant in Gastroenterology, St.Vincents Private Clinic, Dublin.

What is inflammatory bowel disease?
In inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an umbrella term for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.The difference between these two-colitis only affects the large intestine, whereas Crohn's disease can affect any part of the digestive track, from your mouth to your back passage. Today, we are going to be talking about Crohn's disease.
What is Crohn's disease?
Crohn's Disease is a serious, chronic, inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
What causes it?
Crohn's disease is a complex disease and the exact cause remains unknown. Researchers believe that inherited genes, environmental factors and the immune system all play a role, but none of these have actually been proven definitively.

What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease?
The symptoms of Crohn's disease vary considerably and they may be mild or severe. These include persistent diarrhoea, or acute pain or cramps in your abdomen.
Fever, fatigue and weight loss are also common presenting symptoms. You may experience a loss of appetite.
However, symptoms can be presented differently in children, who may suffer from pains in their joints that are similar to arthritis, significant weight loss, or may not be growing properly.

How is Crohn's disease normally diagnosed?
Diagnosing Crohn's disease may not necessarily be straightforward. Symptoms may be quite variable and are often too general to allow a health professional to make a diagnosis immediately.
A doctor will first take a medical history and examine the patient to see if they have tenderness in the abdomen and try to locate the source of your pain.
If the doctor suspects Crohn's disease, they may run blood tests to check for anaemia (a possible sign of internal bleeding) or elevated white blood cells (a sign of inflammation). In order to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will have to take a close look at your digestive system with either a barium X-ray or an endoscope. Barium tests are especially useful for tracking Crohn's disease in the small intestine and upper digestive tract. If the condition seems to be affecting your colon, your doctor will probably want to conduct a colonoscopy (a medical procedure in which a tube with a light and a tiny camera is inserted into a patient's colon to view the intestinal tract.)

What other types of treatments are available for Crohn's disease?
As well as medication, many people with Crohn's disease will have surgery at some stage in the course of their illness. The surgery involves cutting out the diseased piece of bowel and piecing the healthy bits back together. This should cause remission of symptoms, however symptoms can still return at a later stage. It's also worth noting that Crohn's is a lifetime condition, even when in remission, so most sufferers will have to take a form of maintenance medication-normally anti inflammatory or immunal suppressants.
What are your tips for people with Crohn's disease who want to maintain a good quality of life?
- Stay on your treatment, even if symptoms aren't present
- Make sure you monitor your condition, and stay in touch with your doctor
- If you experience a flare up, visit your doctor immediately for treatment
- Know your triggers and avoid them
- Avoid stress
- Healthy balanced lifestyle-with good diet, rest & exercise
- Keep up to date on new treatments on

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