Health Matters: Treating Crohn’s Disease

More than one million people live with Crohn’s disease.

Olympic Swimmer Kathleen Baker is one of many who’s joining the conversation about living with Crohn’s disease.

She’s also one very strong example that you can live a normal life with the chronic condition.

In some cases, Crohn’s disease can first appear in your early 20’s then reappear in your 60’s.

It causes inflamation throughout your intestines.

“Usually they present with like a cramping abdominal pain,” said Dr. Kimberly Kolkhorst, who is a Gastroenterologist with Essentia Health. “Usually more common in the right lower quadrant, and then they are having diarrhea. So they say I just never have a formed bowl movement it’s always diarrhea.”

Physicians diagnose it with a colonoscopy.

“We’re looking endoscopially for evidence of a lot of redness,” said Dr. Kolkhorst. “We’re looking for ulcerations and you can kind of get this cobble stone appearance to the mucosa of the colon or the small intestine.”

Doctors don’t usually eliminate anything from your diet but they may recommend avoiding spicy foods and dairy for some patients.

“Right now, this disease has an unknown ideology, meaning we actually don’t exactly know what causes it,” explained Dr. Kolkhorst.

If it goes untreated, patients can develop fibrosis of the small intestine or the colon.

However, there are pills and injections your physician can give you that help reduce the inflammation.

“That allows your GI tract to absorb nutrients better and fluids better,” said Dr. Kolkhorst. “That is what minimizes the diarrhea.”

That’s why it’s important to see your physician if you notice your uncomfortable bowel symptoms are consistent.

“So I stress that among my patients,” added Dr. Kolkhorst. “I tell them even though this is a chronic disease and you will require some form of treatment for the rest of your life, the good news is, once it’s treated, you can have a very good quality of life.”

Even if your symptoms go away, Dr. Kolkhorst says it’s important to always take your medication.

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