Treatment options of chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease can vary profoundly from patient to patient, with no standard treatment that works for everyone. Depending on a variety of factors and circumstances including a patient’s specific stage of disease, needs, and preferences, treatment options can differ and can come in the form of surgery, dietary changes, medication, or therapy.
Crohn’s disease is a type of debilitating inflammatory bowel disease or syndrome that affects an estimated 1.3% of the population (3-5 million people), with more and more cases emerging every year. Living with this condition can result in chronic digestive issues, which can severely affect the lives of those suffering from it. If left untreated, the condition can become fatal, potentially causing life-threatening complications. Fortunately, being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease is not necessarily a death sentence, if proper help and treatment is sought out. Most treatment options can help manage and alleviate symptoms and greatly improve the patient’s quality of life.
Medication as a Treatment Option for Crohn’s disease
Some of the most common symptoms associated with the condition include fever, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, rectal bleeding, intestinal cramps, and pain. All of these arise from an inflammatory response caused by the body’s immune system, resulting in the swelling and inflammation of the digestive tract, especially the small and large intestines. Medications used to treat Crohn’s disease help regulate this inflammatory response, typically through the suppression of the immune system and neutralization of a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This helps reduce inflammation, minimizing symptoms and offering the body an opportunity to recover and heal from any damage caused by inflammation.
Although Crohn’s disease is believed to be a life-long illness, with a proper treatment plan in place, medication can help a patient reach remission and manage future flare-ups. It usually takes about one to four months for patients to begin to see any signs that their treatment is working. Therefore, it is that much more crucial for patients to be consistent in continuing their use of medication to begin seeing results that the treatment is taking effect and that their symptoms are improving. Patients should always consult with their doctors before discontinuing any of their medications, as it could potentially cause a patient to come out of remission and contribute to another flare-up.
Biologic Medication Therapy
Another option available for those suffering from Crohn’s disease includes the addition of biologic medication therapy. This type of treatment is designed to target and suppress inflammation and usually requires a subcutaneous injection. For patients who haven’t experienced any success in the management of their symptoms under traditional medication plans, a biologic prescription can be tried instead, or combined with another traditional treatment. It’s important to recognize that these medications do come with side effects, including a possible weakening of the immune system in its ability to fight off infections.
Dietary Changes and Nutrition Plan
No special diet has been proven effective in treating or curing Crohn’s disease. However, eliminating or minimizing certain foods from a patient’s diet may help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with the condition. Even with the use of medication or other forms of treatment, a person’s diet can be a major influence in helping to manage symptoms of the disease.
If a patient finds that certain food choices play a major role in controlling and alleviating their symptoms, they can choose to work with their doctors or a dietitian who specializes in IBD management to develop a personalized meal plan. In many instances, a high fiber diet is able to help, while for some a low-fiber and grain diet can be the best route. Unfortunately, the ways in which the condition affects people varies, meaning that some patients may be able to tolerate certain foods, while for others the same food may cause major flare-ups. Therefore, when developing a customized nutrition plan as a treatment for Chroh’s disease, it is vital to work with a nutritionist who specializes in IBD treatment with expertise in the different types of dietary support for the condition.
In some cases, when symptoms of Crohn’s disease become severe, bowel rest can help provide some relief for patients. Bowel rest involves giving the digestive system a break from any food or solids and relying on a diet of mostly liquids to allow the intestines the chance to heal from damage caused by inflammation. Patients should always work with a medical professional when attempting bowel rest. Treatment of this nature requires the guidance and expertise of a medical professional to ensure that while a patient is on bowel rest, he or she will continue to receive the necessary nutrients and caloric intake, whether it is delivered intravenously through the bloodstream or through a special nutrition plan.
When all of the above treatment options fail to offer results in providing relief or in managing symptoms of Crohn’s disease, surgery may be a necessary measure. It’s not unusual for patients to turn to surgical procedures as a method of alleviating their symptoms as many times medication or other treatments that may have been used to offer relief in the past can lose efficacy or stop taking effect, especially in cases in which the condition has progressed.
While surgery cannot cure Crohn’s disease, it can be very beneficial in helping to manage many of the symptoms associated with the condition. There are a variety of surgical procedures that can help in the treatment of the condition, with bowel resection being one of the most commonly performed. This procedure typically involves removing the affected portion of a patient’s large or small intestine and joining the two remaining ends. If further areas become affected, additional surgery may be needed.
Not everyone with Crohn’s disease will require surgery. While some patients may choose to turn to surgical procedures to improve their quality of life, for others it may not be the best option. Always consult with your doctor about the best treatment option for you, and make sure to evaluate what’s working and what’s not.
If you or someone you know is struggling with and on a treatment plan for Crohn’s disease and you have questions about treatment options for Crohn’s disease, reach out to your healthcare provider or to us at Quick RX.