What Are the Top 5 Treatment Options for Crohn’s Disease?
Crohn’s disease is a condition in which there is chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. It is an inflammatory bowel disorder, but it is not the same as ulcerative colitis, with which it shares some symptoms. In the United States, an estimated 780,000 people have Crohn’s disease and 1.6 million people who have some type of inflammatory bowel disease.
Crohn’s disease commonly impacts the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon. By contrast, ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine alone.
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Signs and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, there are multiple symptoms of Crohn’s disease. People who have a chronic disorder may experience rectal bleeding and persistent diarrhea. They may experience abdominal pain and cramping and an urgent need to have bowel movements. They may also suffer from constipation and may feel as if they have not completely evacuated their bowels after having bowel movements.
People with Crohn’s disease may also experience weight loss, experience nausea, experience night sweats, and fatigue, and may suffer fevers.
Treatments for Crohn’s Disease
Fortunately, there are a number of different treatments to help to ease the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. Here are the top five treatments that people might try.
For most people, anti-inflammatory drugs are the first treatment that their doctors might try to help to alleviate their symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications help by reducing the inflammation that people experience in their gastrointestinal tracts. Corticosteroids such as prednisone may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, but they do not work for all people who have Crohn’s disease. When they are prescribed, they are generally used for a short duration of three to four months to improve symptoms and to start a remission.
Corticosteroids are only used for a short period of time because long-term use of these drugs can cause multiple side effects. People who take corticosteroids on a long-term basis may suffer weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, easy bruising, and osteoporosis. Corticosteroids may be prescribed alone or in combination with immunosuppressant medications.
Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to some people who have Crohn’s disease if they suffer from abscesses and fistulas. The most commonly prescribed antibiotics include Flagyl and Cipro. Some doctors believe that prescribing antibiotics may help to reduce harmful bacteria in the intestine that might play a role in activating the people’s immune response, leading to inflammation.
Like other antibiotics, Flagyl and Cipro both have some side effects. People may experience nausea, upset stomachs, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, headaches, and weight loss.
Immunosuppressant medications target the immune system to reduce substances that cause inflammation. This means that they also help to reduce inflammation in the GI tract of people who suffer from Crohn’s disease. Since every person’s immune system works differently, some people may do best when prescribed a combination of different immunosuppressant drugs.
The most commonly prescribed immunosuppressants for Crohn’s disease are azathioprine and mercaptopurine. While these drugs can help to reduce inflammation, people who take them must undergo regular bloodwork to check for certain side effects, including liver inflammation and a reduction in the resistance to infections. People may also experience nausea when taking these drugs.
TNF inhibitors or biologic medications may be prescribed to block an immune system protein called TNF. For people who do not respond to other medications, doctors may prescribe methotrexate. Like the other immunosuppressants, people who are prescribed methotrexate must be closely monitored for potentially dangerous side effects such as end-stage liver disease and lung lesions.
Some people whose Crohn’s symptoms are not responding to medication may be given nutrition therapy to help their bowel to relax. This involves feeding the person via a feeding tube or by injections. This can allow people’s bowel to rest and to improve their overall nutrition. It may be used on a short-term basis. Some people may receive nutrition therapy in combination with some immunosuppressant drugs to get their inflammation under control.
Nutrition therapy may also be used to help to reduce inflammation prior to surgery. People who have bowel strictures may also be instructed to eat a low-fiber diet to prevent blockages in their intestines. This helps by reducing the size of stools that people produce as well as their number.
The Mayo Clinic reports that nearly 50 percent of people who have Crohn’s disease will require at least one surgery. Surgery may be recommended by doctors when medications, immunosuppressants, dietary changes, and lifestyle changes fail to work.
Surgery may include the removal of damaged tissue. The surgeon may then connect the undamaged tissue. Surgery may also be used to close fistulas and to drain abscesses. Surgery does not cure Crohn’s disease. Often, its benefits are temporary. People who have undergone surgery frequently experience a reemergence of the condition. Often, new inflammation develops near where the healthy tissues were connected and where the damaged tissue was removed. People may be prescribed medications following surgery to try to reduce the chances of the condition’s re-emergence.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it is possible to help to reduce the symptoms so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. People who are diagnosed with the disease might work closely together with their doctors to find the mixture of treatments that help them the most. In addition to these treatments, the doctors might recommend dietary and lifestyle changes that might also help to alleviate the symptoms.
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