Autoimmune Disease That Causes Inflammation of Digestive Tract
Crohn’s disease is an inflammation of the digestive tract that can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition. Crohn’s disease most often involves the lower end of the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine. It can also occur in any part of the digestive system, from the mouth to the end of the rectum (anus).
Crohn’s disease is one of the two primary forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-term inflammation in part of the digestive tract. It occurs when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder and may occur at any age, although it is most common between the ages of 15 and 35.
If you or a loved one has Crohn’s disease, you’ve come to the right place. The specialists at Penn State Health IBD Center are national leaders in the field. We offer our patients comprehensive, multidisciplinary care in one location. Penn State Health gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons share the same clinic for collaboration and patient convenience – you will be able to see multiple physicians during a single visit. We also have a dedicated IBD nurse navigator to help answer your questions and assist with your scheduling needs.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook
Crohn’s disease has many possible symptoms that can be mistaken for other health problems. To make an accurate diagnosis, the Penn State Health experts will gather information, run diagnostic tests and evaluate your symptoms.
Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can include:
- Crampy pain in the belly
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Feeling that you need to pass stools, even though your bowels are empty
- Watery diarrhea
Additional Crohn’s disease symptoms can include:
- Bloody stools
- Draining of pus, mucus or stools from around the rectum or anus
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Mouth sores
- Rectal bleeding
- Skin lumps or ulcers
- Slow pediatric growth
- Swelling in eyes
- Tender, red bumps under the skin
To diagnose Crohn’s disease, our team will order a combination of exams, lab tests and imaging studies to:
- Rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms, such as ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis or celiac disease
- Make a clear diagnosis of Crohn’s disease
- Determine what part of your digestive tract is affected
Our team provides advanced diagnostic and treatment techniques that are not widely available elsewhere, including:
- CT enterography
- MR enterography
- Pill cam
- Robotic surgery
- Special blood and stool tests
- Small bowel endoscopy (single and double-balloon enteroscopy)
- Therapeutic endoscopy
- Upper endoscopy
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease; however, our dedicated team at the Penn State Health IBS Center will work with you to return to your normal life through medication, surgery or additional therapies. Patients with Crohn’s disease can experience long periods of improvement followed by flare-ups.
Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
Advanced Drug Therapies
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but Penn State Health IBD Center offers therapies that can dramatically reduce the discomfort of the disease. Our experts work closely with you to achieve an effective treatment plan that fits your lifestyle. Our goal is long-term remission (a decrease or disappearance of symptoms) and tissue healing to help you get back to your active life. Our Penn State Health IBD Center specialists will recommend advanced drug therapy options, which can include medications to reduce inflammation of the bowel tissue. These medications will help the tissue heal and also relieve your symptoms. The most common Crohn’s disease medications include 5-aminosalicylate agents, steroids, immunomodulators and biologic agents.
Robotic Laparoscopy Surgery
Our IBD colorectal surgeons specialize in laparoscopy, including robotic laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgery that requires one or more small cuts in your abdomen instead of one large one. This helps you heal more quickly with minimal scarring and reduced pain.
Laparoscopic surgeries performed at Penn State Health IBD Center include:
- Strictureplasty: opening up narrowed areas of the intestine
- Resection: removing damaged sections of the small or large bowel
- Colectomy or proctocolectomy: complete removal of the colon or the colon and rectum
Expert Stoma Surgery and Care
Some patients require a temporary or permanent colostomy or ileostomy to manage waste. Your physician might recommend this option depending on the severity and type of your IBD. The surgeons at Penn State Health IBD Center specialize in these procedures and perform hundreds of them each year.
Our IBD Center has a team of stomal therapies that can educate and help customize your needs if you have a colostomy or ileostomy. We are available for questions and concerns over the phone or you can schedule an appointment in the clinic. Many problems can be managed with newer supplies and appliances, but if revisional surgery to improve the function of your stoma is needed, our team will connect you with one of the IBD Center surgeons.
National Experts in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Penn State Health IBD Center experts are national leaders in the IBD field. Our team has been awarded top honors for exceptional IBD care, including Castle Connolly’s list of America’s Top Doctors. We are proud to provide our patients with the latest in diagnostic testing, as well as a wide range of medical, dietary and surgical therapy options.
Penn State Health IBD BioBank
Penn State Health’s long-standing commitment to leading-edge IBD research includes establishing the nation’s largest IBD BioBank, which includes DNA, blood and tissue samples from multiple generations of IBD patients. The IBD BioBank allows basic science research into the cause and potential new treatments of IBD.
Penn State Health has also pioneered research in the field of personalized medicine. We’ve completed more than 50 studies and published over 100 nationally recognized IBD-specific research papers. Penn State Health IBD Center conducts several clinical trials that are open for patient candidates. If you or a loved one has IBD and would like to participate in a clinical trial, please discuss your interest with your IBD specialist to get more information.
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
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