Crohn’s disease is a lifelong condition. We understand it to be a disease in which once someone is diagnosed, they’re going to have one of several different patterns of disease. Fortunately, most people have a milder form of disease, in which they have active symptoms but only intermittently and rarely. Some patients have more aggressive disease, and then some patients will cycle between the two conditions.
The early symptoms for Crohn’s disease may not prevent a person from going about their daily life. At first it may seem like more of a hindrance than early onset of an actual disease.
Some of the early symptoms of Crohn’s disease is people having diarrhea or loose stool more frequently than they’re used to having. Other things that people might experience are fatigue, low-grade fevers, night sweats, canker sores in their mouth, crampy abdominal pain after they eat.
As the Crohn’s disease progresses, especially when it’s Crohn’s disease of the small intestine, the small intestinal diameter can get smaller and smaller, and as you might imagine, food can start getting caught in the intestine, and so sometimes people in a way, interestingly, subliminally, don’t recognize the fact that they’re eating less and less, or they’re…or that they’re avoiding high-fiber foods in order to allow that food to go through without having pain. So people can get quite used to having to really dramatically modify their diet. And the extreme of that is that people start losing weight as a result of modifying their diet.
When I was 19 years old, I came down with some symptoms that included diarrhea and heavy abdominal cramping that I tried to self-diagnose and self-medicate through homeopathic remedies. After about 6 months of unsuccessfully doing that, I had lost about 50 pounds, went down to 115, and for a guy 6' 1", that’s pretty severe weight loss. And then I went to my primary care doctor, who determined that I had some form of inflammatory bowel disease. He scheduled me for a sigmoidoscopy, and during that they took some biopsies, and were able to determine that I had Crohn’s disease.