What causes Crohn’s disease, and how is it treated?

crohn's_disease_diagnosisCrohn’s disease is a condition that can affect any portion of the GI tract and is characterized by inflammation of the bowel. Patients who suffer from Crohn’s disease can experience mild to severe symptoms including cramping and abdominal pain, fever, appetite loss, rectal bleeding, and ongoing diarrhea. Complications from these symptoms can include abscesses and intestinal blockages.
 

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Crohn’s disease in its Blue Book listing of impairments in the Digestive System section, under Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 5.06. But although Crohn’s is a disorder eligible for disability, getting a claim approved for this disease can be a challenge. It can be helpful to hire a Social Security (SS) disability lawyer to take you through the claims process and advocate on your behalf.

What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

Researchers don't fully understand the causes of Crohn’s. It’s believed that stress and a patient’s diet can provoke and irritate the condition, but neither causes the disease. Current research indicates that contributing factors may include:

  • Genetics. In a GI tract that functions normally, there are types of non-dangerous bacteria that help with digestion. But in patients with IBD, the body’s immune system mistakes the bacteria as “harmful invaders” and responds by sending cells to the intestines and producing inflammation. Ultimately, this inflammation doesn’t diminish and creates patient symptoms, including chronic inflammation, thickening of the intestinal wall, and ulceration.
     
  • Heredity. There seems to be a family link in Crohn’s patients. Research shows that between 5–20 percent of Crohn’s patients have a parent, child, or sibling with the disease. Additionally, you’re at a higher risk of developing Crohn’s if both of your parents have IBD.
     
  • Environment. Where you live may factor into your risk of developing Crohn’s. It appears that people who live in northern rather than southern climates are more likely to develop the disease. Additionally, Crohn’s is more common in urban areas and in developed countries.

Crohn’s Symptoms

Crohn’s disease symptoms can range from mild to severe. Here's a brief look at the different types of symptoms a Crohn’s patient may experience when suffering from this condition:

  • Mild to moderate. If your doctor classifies your Crohn’s as mild to moderate, you may have frequent diarrhea and abdominal pain, but your ability to eat and walk isn't affected. You're unlikely to have signs of tenderness in the abdomen, significant weight loss, dehydration, or a high fever.
  • Moderate to severe. If your condition is in the moderate to severe category, you are likely to have abdominal tenderness or pain, consistent diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss.
  • Very severe. Severe symptoms may include consistent vomiting, evidence of an abscess or an intestinal obstruction, serious weight loss, and a high fever.

It’s also possible that Crohn’s can create additional complications, including:

  • Gallstones and kidney stones
  • Liver disease
  • Arthritis
  • Eye and mouth inflammation
  • Ulcers or skin rashes

Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s is an incurable disease, but there are treatment plans that can help control the symptoms. The goals for treatment are to relieve the symptoms of bleeding, diarrhea, and pain; reduce inflammation; eliminate nutritional deficiencies; and possibly achieve and maintain remission, where you have a period of time without symptoms.

There are a variety of medications that are used to treat Crohn’s disease, including antibiotics, aminosalicylates—also known as 5-ASAs—steroids, immune modifiers, and biologic therapies. Each category of drug is used at different stages or phases of the condition, and each type has its own side effects.

Some of these drugs stop the body’s immune system from bringing about the inflammation; some are used to treat bacterial infections and the overgrowth of bacteria that can form in the small intestine. Sometimes a combination of therapies is needed or recommended, and sometimes the patient will need surgery. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to define the right plan for you.

We Can Help

If you or a family member suffers from Crohn’s disease and need help applying for SS benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law offer experience and skill to help you get the financial support you need. Cuddigan Law also handles SS disability claims for clients who need assistance with the appeals process if their claim was denied. We want to help, so contact us by phone at (402) 933-5405, or fill out our online form.

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska