What is crohn”s disease? Crohns disease is a chronic and serious inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramping with pain, fever, rectal bleeding, appetite loss, and weight loss. Crohns disease can also cause symptoms outside of the gastrointestinal tract like uveitis, which is the inflammation of the inside of the eye, and joint pain and even skin problems.
I started crohn’s disease symptoms when I was 18. I used to have brutal diarrhea with terrible blood loss. My gastroenterologist at the time told me that I was suffering from stress. By the time I was 22 my symptoms progressed. I was tired all of the time for no reason. Everything I did seemed to exhaust me. Then one morning I woke up and when I opened my eyes I was in extreme pain. I was photophobic which means that I couldn’t handle light. I sat in the bathroom for hours because it was the darkest room in the house. I had no idea what was happening to me. My primary doctor referred me to an
Ophthalmologist and I was diagnosed me with uveitis. Uveitis is inflammation within the eye and causes photophobia. I was treated with steroid eye drops and within a few days my symptoms subsided.My next symptom was a rectal fissure. This is a crack that travels up the anus. It is extremely painful and I even had spasms with it. Bowel movements were excruciating. At this point I realized my current gastroenterologist was not for me.
My symptoms worsened very quickly after I developed the anal fissure and within a few weeks I was almost bed bound. My uveitis recurred, I had terrible diarrhea with bleeding and pain and I had painful cramping in the abdomen. My mother took me to the hospital and I was admitted immediately. During my hospital stay I was seen by another gastroenterologist who suspected I may have crohn’s disease. This is when the tests began
I was prepared for a colonoscopy. This is when the doctor uses a colonoscope which is a long flexible instrument with a lighted lens. This allows the doctor to view the entire large intestine and look for polyps and ulcers. I was anesthetized for the procedure. The preparation for the colonoscopy was the hard part. The test requires a clear liquid diet the day prior to the test and a bowel preparation is given. There are several preparations including golytely, oral sodium phosphate, oral sodium phosphate tablets (visocal), and magnesium citrate.
All of these bowel preparations taste awful. I later learned that if I put a piece of lemon in my mouth after I ingested the prep that it got rid of the taste. The bowel preparation cleans out the entire colon so I had diarrhea all day until I was sore. The bowel preparation is really unpleasant.
I was diagnosed with crohn’s disease and put on I.V. steroids. I was NPO which meant nothing by mouth. I ended up in the hospital for almost two weeks. When I was released I was put on several medications which were steroids, mesalamine, and flagyl an antibiotic. Other treatments include immunomodulator medicines and biologics. I was told that if the medications didn’t work that I would need surgery to remove the damaged part of my colon. Fortunately the medications worked and surgery wasn’t required.
I’ve had crohn’s disease for 18 years now and I’ve learned some tricks along the way. When my symptoms start to occur I put myself on a liquid diet which includes jell-o, broth and fluids. This may be difficult for some people to do because you will be hungry but it allows the bowel to rest. After a few days when I’m feeling better I progress to a semi-liquid diet which includes puddings and protein drinks. This usually works for me but for times when it doesn’t steroids usually do the trick. I still have the occasional hospital stay but overall my disease is under control.
Anyone with chronic diarrhea or has blood in their stool should see a gastroenterologist right away. If you are diagnosed with crohn’s disease research as much as you can. Researchers are developing new medications all the time. Be involved with your treatment; don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions.