Once diagnosed with Crohn’s, you need to start taking steps to manage your disease. The first line of defence when it comes to living with Crohn’s disease is working with the right kind of doctor. A gastroenterologist specifically treats diseases and conditions of the digestive tract, and may have a sub-specialty in treating Crohn’s.
Because Crohn’s is a complicated disease with complex treatments, it’s best to work with a doctor who is up-to-date with the latest treatment options available. Promptly starting treatment is very important, because many medications can take several months before effects are felt.
Several medications are used to treat Crohn’s disease, with the most common spread among five classes of medications. The severity of a person’s disease determines which are first attempted to control symptoms.
It may seem odd to use antibiotics to treat Crohn’s, because they are typically used for infections. But certain antibiotics are able to treat mild Crohn’s. This is because certain antibiotics have a anti-inflammatory agents that can help with the intestinal swelling. (Examples: metronidazole, ciprofloxacin)
Biologics suppress the immune system in order to reduce inflammation by targeting a specific pathway. They usually given to people who have not responded to conventional therapy. While most drugs are synthesized from other chemicals, biologics are produced from living matter. (Examples: Humira [adalimumab], Remicade [infliximab], Tysabri [natalizumab], Cimzia [Certolizumab pegol])
3. Aminosalicylates (5-ASAs)
These drugs work to decrease inflammation in the lining of the intestines. This drug class is usually used to treat mild to moderate Crohn’s, and tend to work better in conjunction with other medications that work to control inflammation. (Examples: Asacol, Pentasa, Lialda, Apriso, Delzico)
The immune system is usually activated to defend the body against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. In patients with Crohn’s, the immune system abnormally activates randomly, and attacks the digestive track to cause inflammation. These medications suppress the body’s immune response, so that it cannot cause ongoing inflammation. Medications used to suppress the immune system not only offer relief from common symptoms, they also give the intestines a chance to heal and slow down disease progression. The downside to taking an immune suppressant drug is an increased chance of contracting or developing infections. (Examples: azathioprine, methotrexate, ciclosporin, 6-MP)
These medications help reduce severe inflammation by suppressing the immune system and are usually given to help with moderate to severe Crohn’s symptoms. The majority of symptoms that Crohn’s causes are due to severe inflammation in the intestines. Steroids are generally very effective in improving the symptoms from a flare rather quickly. People often notice significant improvement within one to three days. Steroids are very effective in controlling severe symptoms of Crohn’s, but are best used for the short term to control IBD symptoms and disease activity. (Examples: prednisone, methylprednisolone)
Exercise and diet can help
There are a few simple remedies and tricks for relieving mild Crohn’s symptoms. Depending on the severity of your disease, sometimes altering your lifestyle by increasing daily activity and committing to a healthy diet can make a difference in controlling symptoms. Doctors may recommend light exercises for people with Crohn’s. Activities such as yoga, Tai Chi, or even walking have been known to help with digestion. Heavy activity should be avoided because it could worsen symptoms. Another perk to regular light exercise is that it can help with stress management, and improve your mood.
It’s important to remember that no two people have the same type of Crohn’s. Just because a medication works for one person, that doesn’t mean it will work for others. Treating Crohn’s is like trial and error, with numerous attempts sometimes necessary to find the combination that works for you. It is possible for some Crohn’s patients to achieve remission, and have periods of time free from flare-ups.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.