10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Crohn's Disease

Erica Sanderson | Nov 20th 2013 Apr 11th 2017

1 of 10
1 of 10

What is Crohn's disease?

It is one of two diseases of the gastrointestinal tract called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The other is ulcerative colitis. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation of the digestive tract. In some people only the last part of the small intestine (ileum) is involved, while in others the large intestine may be affected as well.

2 of 10

How did I get Crohn's?

An exact cause is not known, but history of the disease does show that if you have a close family member with IBD, you may be at higher risk for Crohn’s. Also, people of European and Jewish descent appear to be at a higher risk. Finally, cigarette smoking has been shown to make Crohn’s disease worse.

3 of 10

Is there medication to treat Crohn's?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Ask your doctor if medication is right for you and which types will work with your medical history and other prescriptions you may take. Medications for Crohn’s include aminosalicylates (5-ASA), corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antibiotics, and biologic therapies. The goal is to alter or suppress the immune system’s inflammatory response, which can relieve some or all symptoms and give the gut a chance to heal.

4 of 10

Are there other treatment options?

Your doctor can also recommend lifestyle and diet changes that improve symptoms for many patients. Stress doesn’t cause IBD, but it can make symptoms worse. Lowering your stress  can be good for the gut — yoga, gentle exercise, and meditation can help.

5 of 10

How should I change my diet?

Bring a food journal to share with your doctor. This will help you hone in on which foods trigger flares. In general, Crohn’s patients should avoid greasy meals, high fiber foods, roughage, wheat, dairy, caffeine and alcohol. Ask about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) or GAPS diet. Your doctor also may refer you to work with a nutritionist.

6 of 10

Are there potential complications?

Yes, in addition to inflammation in the gut, Crohn’s, and some of the medications used to treat it, can cause complications. These include arthritis or joint pain, eczema, malabsorption, malnutrition, osteoporosis, ulcers, strictures, fistulas, fissures, and abscesses. Be sure to discuss any new symptoms or medication side effects with your doctor immediately.

7 of 10

What do these Crohn's terms mean?

Bring a list of all the terms you don’t understand—strictures, fistulas, fissures, abscesses—and have your doctor clearly define them for you. Only researching these terms online can lead to misinformation or confusion. It’s best to be educated by a medical specialist.

8 of 10

Will I need surgery?

Possibly. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), about two-thirds of people with Crohn’s will require surgery at some point during their lives. This becomes necessary when medications and diet no longer control symptoms. It can also become necessary when fistulas, fissures, or obstructions are present and other treatments have been unsuccessful.

9 of 10

How often should I meet with a doctor?

Discuss this with your doctor. Every doctor is different. Some doctors will want to see you periodically until you are in remission. Some physicians have a dedicated nurse who can answer some of your questions and pass along others to the doctor. It is important to set the basis and expectations of your doctor-patient relationship at the beginning of that relationship.

10 of 10

Can I travel, work, or exercise?

It can take time to get your symptoms under control, but you should be able to participate in most of the activities of everyday life. This may be more difficult when you are having a flare up, but there are many ways to cope. Ask your doctors for contact information for a local support group, or contact your local CCFA chapter.

NEXT: A Biologics FAQ
More on this topic

6 Ways to Prepare for a Crohn's Flare

SSuchy

IBD Patients Weigh In: 'The Best Advice I Ever Got'

Jackie Zimmerman

8 Ways To Be A Champion Of Your IBD

BrianGreenberg

Tackling IBD 12 Weeks at a Time

BrianIBD

Swimming With IBD, And The Amazing Kathleen Baker

BrianIBD

IBD: Getting a Quick and Accurate Diagnosis

Jennifer Rackley

Being High Maintenance with IBD

BrianIBD

Living with IBD Everyday

BrianIBD

Why You Should Consider Exercising With IBD

Jennifer Rackley

10 Things People With Crohn's Disease Are Tired of Hearing

Jennifer Rackley

Infusions with Biologics: Tips to Make Crohn's Treatments Easier

Jennifer Rackley

Biologics and Crohn's Disease

Dr. Constance Pietrzak, MD

How to Find a Crohn's Support Group

BrianIBD

How to Eliminate Worry When Eating Out with IBD

BrianIBD

6 Tips to Keep Your New Year's Crohn's Nutrition Goals

Jennifer Rackley

3 Causes of Hair Loss with IBD

Jennifer Rackley

Brian Greenberg Tackles IBD and Half-Ironman in Stride

Erica Sanderson

How to Handle a Crohn's Flare After Remission

Erica Sanderson

5 Signs it's Time to Switch Your Biologic

Erica Sanderson

Will Going Gluten-Free Help IBD?

Jennifer Rackley

10 Changes To Consider If You Have Crohn's Disease

Jennifer Rackley

Doctor Q&A: How Do Biologics Treat Crohn's Disease?

Erica Sanderson

Four Relationship Essentials for People with IBD

Jackie Zimmerman

How to Manage Crohn's Flares

Erica Sanderson

Foods to Avoid with Crohn's Disease (ANIMATION)

Erica Sanderson

How Crohn's Disease Affects The Body (INFOGRAPHIC)

APage

What You Should Know About Crohn's Disease Treatments

Erica Sanderson

Crohn's-Friendly Recipes

Elizabeth Roberts

Stress May Worsen Crohn's Disease Symptoms

Dr. Cindy Haines

Crohn's: Promising New Study on Preventing Strictures

Jennifer Rackley

IBD Can Be a Good Thing (No, Really!)

BrianGreenberg

Crohn's Disease: Two Subtypes Discovered by Researchers

Jennifer Rackley

Have IBD? Here Are 7 Ways to Improve Your Life Now

BrianIBD

Anal Fistulas: The Crohn's Symptom No One Talks About

BrianIBD

A Biologics FAQ

Erica Sanderson

IBD: How Confidence Can Impact Your Friendships and Relationships

BrianIBD