Crohn’s disease is a debilitating disease that can affect your entire life and lifestyle if you allow it to. It affects someone that is very dear to me, my best friend’s mother, Stephanie. I see her live through this day in and day out, and it has raised many questions in my mind. Questions like how you get it, why you get it, and what you really go through when you have it. It is something I have little knowledge of, and by learning more information on it, I feel as if I can possibly help her cope with it in the future.
I know that Stephanie’s intestines are severely affected by it, and I think the disease eats away at your intestines. You can only imagine how painful that sounds, and this woman experiences it. Certain foods can trigger a flare up, such as peanuts, sometimes chocolate, and so on. This becomes a hassle and an unwanted burden when you are trying to enjoy quality time with your family. I know that it gives you chronic diarrhea and unbearable stomach cramps. I have even seen her lay out of work for days due to extreme pain and flare ups of the diarrhea. She has also been hospitalized because it became so severe at one time. It can control your life, and you sometimes have to plan your activities around it. For example, when we go on trips, we always have to stop frequently at a rest area when it becomes bad. In order to fight the disease, Stephanie takes numerous amounts of pills and medicines, and she has even taken up to 25-30 pills a day.
In order to answer the questions I have about Crohn’s disease, I have looked through the books and web articles to try and satisfy my need for understanding it. But still, there are many things that I don’t know about it, things beyond what I physically see Stephanie experience. I have often wondered how she got Crohn’s disease. Is it something that you can catch, or can it fully develop and mature at any point in your life? Also, what are the ways in preventing yourself from getting it, if any? I think one of the main questions is what happens to your body and can the affects be deadly? Another thing I wonder about is whether or not it will ever go away, or is it just going to take her on a roller-coaster ride, up and down, up and down?
Crohn’s disease is something that I want to know more about so I can help a victim of it. I feel that the next time Stephanie has a bad experience with it, I can understand what is going on instead of wondering what is wrong. The more I know about it, the more I understand what is happening to her and if there is anything I can do to help her. It is painful to watch someone go through it, but she has become accustomed to it and has learned to include it in her daily life. I admire her strength and it has inspired me to pursue a search in finding as much information as I can about it.
For my interview, I asked Stephanie questions concerning her disease, Crohn’s. During our talk, she informed me that the hardest part is the pain and the fatigue. Sometimes she feels depressed due to the constant pain and fatigue. She also stated that it can be extremely embarrassing at times, and she has trouble planning activities because she never knows when the painful diarrhea will set in. Diarrhea has been and is a normal part of her life for the past 8 years. When she was first diagnosed with Crohn’s, she had accidents on herself as a result of the uncontrollable bowel movements. You can become dehydrated, and lose lots of blood with this disease. She has been out of work for up to three months at a time. Aside from the pain and embarrassment, one of the biggest drawbacks for her is being looked upon as handicapped. Right now, the disease is in remission, but she is one of the lucky ones. Some people diagnosed with Crohn’s never go into remission. In many cases, people decide to undergo surgery to remove the diseased area, but Stephanie and her doctor made the wise decision to wait it out. Her current medication is Prednisone. The side affects are swelling and weight gain, but she prefers that to extreme weight loss and excruciating arthritis.
Crohn’s disease causes inflammation in the small intestines. It usually occurs in the lower part of the small intestines, called the ileum, but it can affect any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. The inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected organ. The inflammation can cause pain and can make the intestines to empty frequently, causing diarrhea. Crohn’s disease is also called Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. The exact cause is unknown but it has been linked to heredity, immune system disorder, or can be drug induced. Crohn’s affects males and females equally and seems to run in some families. About 20 percent of people with Crohn’s disease have a blood relative with some form of IBD, most often a brother or sister and sometimes a parent or child (National Institutionno p).
There are many theories about the cause of Crohn’s disease but none have been proven. “The most popular theory is that the bodies immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine” (NIDDKno p). People with Crohn’s tend to have abnormalities of the immune system, but doctors don’t know whether these abnormalities are a cause or a result of the disease. The most common symptoms are pain in the lower right area of the abdomen and diarrhea. Rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever may also occur. When children have Crohn’s, they may suffer delayed development and stunted growth. Mycobacteria are a group of organisms that have been studied as possible causes of IBD. This disease may result as the body’s defenses respond abnormally to a toxic agent. Abnormality decreases the immune response so that a developing infection cannot be controlled the body, resulting in IBD. Another theory is that an abnormality creates an excessive immune response so those cells lining the intestine are destroyed. Some patients with IBD have complications with organs outside the bowel. These usually disappear when the bowel disease is treated (National Foundationp 44).
There is no definite cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can be managed and controlled. The key to successfully controlling this disease is you controlling it, instead of it controlling you. Managing this disease as soon as possible should be a person’s first goal. It is easy for depression to set in because Crohn’s disease can be so embarrassing for those who have it. It is very difficult to explain this to someone who doesn’t know, and from outward appearances, a person may look like there is nothing wrong with them. Usually, the first thing a person fighting this disease looks for whenever they go to a public place, is where the restroom is located. There are many scientific studies and tests done with medications and treatments to find a cure. The most important thing is finding a compassionate physician who specializes in gastrointestinal disorders or diseases. Numerous tests are conducted, such as blood work, gastrointestinal x-rays, and a colonoscopy is performed. This procedure entails a flexible scope being inserted into the entire colon after the patient takes a strong laxative cleansing agent. The physician will see tiny, multiple ulcers located on the wall of the colon. There can be as many as a hundred small ulcers located on one spot of the colon wall. These ulcers are what cause the intense pain and bleeding. Once diagnosis is made, the treatments consist of medications, which include steroids or chemotherapy.
Getting plenty of rest is vital to the treatment of this disease. Eliminating stressful factors in one’s life is very beneficial. It is not proven that stress alone causes this disease, but it can contribute to it’s problems or lack of control. Learning to realize when to cut back or eliminate any unnecessary stress does help prevent flare-ups. Until August 1998, treatment for Crohn’s has relied on surgery and antiflammatory and other drugs also used to treat other conditions. The FDA licensed the first treatment specifically for Crohn’s disease. “Remicade (infliximab) is a genetically engineered antibody that blocks inflammation caused by a protein called tumor necrosis factor. After clinical trials showed benefit from Remicade treatment within in two-to-four week period following a single dose, FDA approved the drug for patients with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease who have not found relief with other treatments” (Lewis no p). The drug blocks the action of a natural protein that can promote inflammation. The drug also is being tested for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, a bone deterioration disease. “Infliximab was developed by Centocor Inc. of Malvern, Pa” (Recer no p).
Throughout my research, I found a very interesting fact. I contributed my new knowledge of Peppermint Oil to Stephanie. I found a very intriguing article about Peppermint Oil soothing Crohn’s symptoms. Throughout the article, this woman discussed her remedy that has helped her through her struggle with Crohn’s disease for 22 years. She mentioned that it relieved her abdominal cramping. It is a non-traditional medical treatment and it does not hold promise for relief of some symptoms. A drop of Peppermint Oil in a cup of warm water with a little sugar releases its soothing affects in as little as a few minutes. This process can be done 15-30 minutes before a meal or at the onset of symptoms. You can drink up to four cups of this daily (Goldstein no p).
Crohn’s disease is a very stressful disease to have and throughout my research I have learned this. I sympathize for the victims battling this horrible disease being as there is no cure and there is no reassurance that medications will work. I have gathered that it takes a tremendous amount of self-control and inner strength to live daily life as normally as possible while still coping with Crohn’s. Although I have been thoroughly informed of this disease and all the affects and the information that goes along with it, I will never completely understand this disease. Unless one experiences this first hand and actually has this disease, as well as any other disease, the realization can never be grasped efficiently. I hope, in the near future, the fight for the cure will end in a victory and victims everywhere will be allowed their normal lifestyles back.
Goldstein, Laura. “Peppermint Oil May Soothe Crohn’s Symptoms.” Prevention, Mar. 2001. 5 Apr. 2001.
Lewis, Carol. “Crohn’s Disease: New Drug may help when others fail.” Food and Drug
Administration. Sept./Oct. 1999. 5 Apr. 2001.
National Foundation of Ileitis & Colitis. The Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis Fact
Book. Macmillian: USA 1983.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Crohn’s Disease.”
Feb. 1998. 5 Apr. 2001.
NIDDK. “Crohn’s Disease.” 12 Apr. 2001
Recer, Paul. “Drug for Crohn’s Disease OK’d.” (News). News & Observer (Raleigh,
NC), August 25, 1998. 29 Mar. 2001
“Biologic Therapy Helps Fight Crohn’s Disease.” USA Today; New York; Feb. 2001.
5 Apr. 2001.
Bland, Elizabeth L.; Lisa Granastein. “Health Report.” Time, 10/20/97. 16 Apr. 2001.
HealthCite Physician Staff. “Crohn’s Disease.” 2001. 29 Mar. 2001.