Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition of the gastrointestinal tract. Though the exact cause of Crohn’s is still unclear, researchers are making significant progress toward understanding the disease. But, despite our advancing knowledge of Crohn’s disease, it is hard to predict how the disease will affect each person. The type and severity of symptoms, the location of the inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the response to treatment all vary from person to person. So, to better understand how Crohn’s specifically affects you and what you can do to effectively manage your unique symptoms, you need to learn as much as you can. Not only will this deeper knowledge empower you in your management choices but it will also enhance your ability to communicate with your Crohn’s healthcare team. Let’s start by distinguishing the different types of Crohn’s disease.
Though Crohn's is typically discussed as if it is one disease, there are different types of Crohn's disease. One could classify it by the location of the inflammation within the digestive tract. Your symptoms and possible complications may differ depending on which part of the GI tract is affected.
Crohn’s disease can also be categorized by the way the disease behaves as it progresses. There are three categories that describe the different ways that Crohn’s presents.
Because Crohn’s disease manifests differently in each person, there is also no one treatment that fits everyone. Each approach to treatment must be individualized. Many individuals with Crohn’s respond well to medical treatment that involve one or more medications and never need surgery. Others may go on to develop complications that will require surgery at some point in their lives (typically stricturing and penetrating types of Crohn’s disease are most at risk for surgery).
Crohn’s disease needs to be approached as a disease that can manifest in any number of ways. The symptoms, progression of the disease and treatment approach that applies to one person may be very different for someone else. You may even find that what works for you now may need to be modified over time due to complications that develop. But, the more you know, the greater your confidence will be that you can still live well with Crohn’s disease.
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