Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which causes inflammation of the digestive or gastrointestinal tract. It can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from mouth to anus, but usually affects the end of the small intestine where it joins in the beginning of the colon. It may also affect the eyes, skin, and joints. IBD is a term referring to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is discussed in another section.
Doctors and researchers believe that IBDs are autoimmune conditions, wherein the immune system attacks the healthy tissues by mistake. A popular theory suggests that the immune system mistakes harmless bacteria inside the colon as threats and attack the tissues of the colon, which causes the inflammation. The cause of why the immune system behaves this way is still known, but it is believe that it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors. According to records, approximately 700,000 people in the United States are affected by Crohn’s disease.
Signs and symptoms of the disease include diarrhea, fever, fatigue, abdominal pain, cramping, bloody stool, mouth sores reduce appetite, weight loss, and pain or drainage near or around the anus. But for patients with severe Crohn’s disease, other symptoms may include inflammation of skin, eyes, joints, liver or bile ducts, and delayed growth or sexual development in children.
What makes Crohn’s disease may also lead to other complications such as bowel obstruction, ulcers, fistulas, anal fissure, malnutrition, colon cancer, other health problems (eg. anemia, skin disorders, osteoporosis, arthritis, and liver disease), and medication risks.
There is currently no cure for Crohn’s disease. However, treatment is available in order to help manage the symptoms and manage remission (few to no symptoms over a certain period of time).
Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed to help control the inflammation and induce remission. Depending on the severity of the disease, the doctor may prescribe different combinations of medication to help with the symptoms. The categories of drugs that are prescribed for Crohn’s disease are antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, immunomodulators, and biologic therapies.
Antibiotics such as metronidazole and ciprofloxacin are prescribed to patients to achieve remission. However, usage might cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rashes, and restlessness. Long term usage might cause the promotion of bad bacteria and infections.
These are administered as the first step in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. Examples are 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids. Aminosalicylates may cause side effects such as mild stomach pain, cramps, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, dizziness, and mild headache. Meanwhile, corticosteroids are only used for a short period of time because of the side effects which include osteoporosis, hypertension, diabetes, weight gain, increased risk of infection, cataracts, glaucoma, thinning of skin, bruising, and muscle weakness.
These group of drugs reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system response. Some immunosuppressant drugs that are prescribed for ulcerative colitis are azathioprine, mercaptopurine, cyclosporine, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab, and vedolizumab. Usage of these drugs might cause upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, hair loss or unusual growth of body hair, skin rash, muscle pain, fatigue, tightness in the chest, respiratory problems, fevers, and chills.
Biologic therapies are administered to patients intravenously or injected to suppress the immune system, thereby reducing inflammation by targeting a specific pathway. These are only used for patients who have not responded to conventional therapy or medication. Usage might cause side effects such as redness, itching, rash, swelling, painful lumps under the skin, headaches, fevers, chills, nausea, aches, pain, cough, and sore throat.
And because it alters the immune system, risk of infection is increased which may lead to the reactivation of tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and fungal infections Experts also say that there’s slightly higher risk of developing the blood cancer lymphoma.
Crohn’s Disease and Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana provides benefits and relief for a wide range of diseases and disorders, which includes Crohn’s disease. Sources say that using medical marijuana benefit patients with Crohn’s disease by reducing inflammation, providing pain relief, lowering levels of anxiety, suppressing nausea and vomiting, and increasing appetite.
Much research is still needed in order to determine the effectivity of medical marijuana on this and other diseases but initial researches already show some promising results.