Severe cramps, having to run to the bathroom every few minutes, fatigue – these are classic symptoms of a food poisoning. However, if you experience them for more than a few days, run to the doctor – it may be the first sign of Crohn's disease.
The signsSome very serious digestive conditions masquerade as banal diarrhea and are often misdiagnosed. A mysterious disease that affects over 500 thousand people in the US, Crohn’s can be debilitating and even life-threatening. It usually flares up suddently in young people… and never really goes away. Here are the main symptoms (a detailed list can be found here):
- Intestinal pain
- Diarrhea and cramping
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
- Sores around eyes and mouth
The body attacking itselfCrohn’s is most probably an autoimmune disease – something causes the body to view its own intestinal lining as an enemy. Immune cells are sent to fight the “danger”, and the products of their activity cause an inflammation. While Crohn’s is not caused by bad diet or an infection, it is often triggered by a certain episode – a food poisoning or a reaction to antibiotics. Most people live through multiple flare-ups separated by periods of relative normalcy.
Treatable but not curableWhile scientists are searching for a cure, doctors have to apply many methods to make living with Crohn’s disease bearable.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, like corticosteroids (more on drug treatment here).
- Pain medications based on acetaminophen but NOT ibuprofen, which makes the disease worse.
- Immunosuppressants – however, they can make the body less resistant to disease in general.
- Diet – often certain foods, such as dairy or sugar, can trigger a flare-up.
- Anti-diarrhea drugs – usually used only for bad flare-ups, they don’t treat the condition, but can be necessary when one needs to travel.
- Surgery – up to 50% if Crohn’s patients require at least one surgery to have the damaged portion of the intestine removed (more info here).