Back behind the wheel: Abdominal pain and Crohn’s disease
September 1, 2005
Abdominal pain is a common complaint that can be associated with many different conditions. Although the symptomology is very similar, the causes of the disease and pain can be quite different. Being...
Abdominal pain is a common complaint that can be associated with many different conditions. Although the symptomology is very similar, the causes of the disease and pain can be quite different. Being able to recognize and verbalize to your health professional what is happening is critical for a proper diagnosis.
One of these conditions that can be confused with many others is Crohn’s disease.
To have a better understanding of this disease, you need to know the basics about the digestive system/gastrointestinal tract.
Have you ever wondered how the food you eat travels through your body (gastrointestinal tract) and ends up as waste?
Remember that the gastrointestinal tract is responsible for transporting food, starting at your mouth and ending at your…you know where!
The food that you eat travels from your mouth and then into your esophagus.
The esophagus is a long “tube” that transports food to your stomach.
Once the food reaches your stomach, the breakdown/digestion of food begins.
Acids are secreted from the stomach that breaks the food down, in order for it to pass into the small intestines.
The small intestine is divided into three parts, the duodenum, jejunum and ileum.
This part of the intestines is responsible for the absorption of nutrients, from the digested food. The food is also broken down even further and will ultimately make its way to the large intestines.
Any food that is not used is considered waste and will continue its journey down the gastrointestinal tract into the large intestines (colon).
The large intestine is responsible for the re-absorption of water from food.
After this process is done, the food/waste will finally reach the rectum. When a bowel movement is made, the food is disposed of.
In short, the small intestines are approximately six metres in length, and are responsible for the absorption of nutrients.
The large intestine is approximately two metres long and is accountable for the re-absorption of water into the body.
It is also the terminal part of the gastrointestinal tract.
The stomach and mouth are responsible for the breakdown of food and the esophagus is a tube that transports the food between them.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect any area of the gastrointestinal tract, primarily the small intestines. One out of 544 of people are affected by this disease.
The cause of the disease is unknown but it has been suggested that there may be a hereditary link. Presently, there is no conclusive evidence proving or rejecting this hypothesis. It has also been theorized that there is a low-grade chronic bacterial or viral infection to which the immune system is reacting.
Crohn’s is usually diagnosed early in life, with approximately 10 per cent of all cases being prevalent in children under the age of 10. Crohn’s usually occurs in the lower part of the small intestine known as the ileum.
However, it can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract.
The inflammation extends deep into the lining of the affected organ, which causes pain, which results in the intestines emptying frequently.
Diarrhea, abdominal pain (lower right side), rectal bleeding, weight loss, and fever are some of the symptoms that may be experienced.
If there is a lot of bleeding, anemia is a possibility.
Diagnosing Crohn’s may be difficult since symptoms that are present are very common for other intestinal disorders – such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. Your doctor will need to do a thorough physical exam, to diagnose it accurately. A typical exam may include a stool sample, an upper gastrointestinal series (barium is ingested for this procedure), a colonoscopy and a series of blood tests. Treatment of Crohn’s disease depends on the location and severity of the disease. The goal of the treatment is to reduce and control the inflammation, in the hopes of decreasing/eliminating pain, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Treatment may include drugs, nutrition supplements, surgery and or a combination of all three. Presently, there is no cure, but treatment does help manage the disease.
For a lucky few, Crohn’s sufferer may have long periods where the disease goes into remission. This may last for years where they are symptom free, but over time it will re-appear.
Unfortunately, little is known about Crohn’s. Research is constantly being done in the hopes of curing this disease.
Although Crohn’s is not life threatening, it can be very painful, and indirectly affect the way you live your life.
Until next month, take care and drive safely!
– Dr. Jerry Singh, B. Kin., D.C., runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 1-888-252-7327, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.