Crohn's Disease - Treatment Options

Crohn's Disease is a condition with no known cure. However, treatment options exist. This article outlines some of the possible courses of treatment.

Crohn's Disease is a digestive disorder with no known cure or cause. Although the medical community is still in the nascent stages of developing an understanding of this disease, there are several treatment options for people suffering from this condition.

The first stage of treatment with Crohn's Disease is drug therapy. There are several types of drugs that are used in treating Crohn's, all of which target the fact that the disease is both inflammatory and autoimmune.

The most prevalent type of drug used to treat Crohn's flare-ups are corticosteroids, such as Prednisone. These are highly effective drugs in that they suppress the immune system, reducing symptoms of Crohn's, but are not the ideal choice due to serious long-term side effects, such as potential eye problems, liver problems, and risk of infection. However, for many sufferers, corticosteroids are the only drugs which provide immediate relief. Because corticosteroids replaces the cortisol-producing function of the body, it is crucial to slowly wean off the drug so the body can begin making the chemical again. Any treatment with corticosteroids must be monitored carefully by a medical professional.

Other drugs used in the treatment of Crohn's are designed for long-term remission, and often have less serious side effects than corticosteroids. There are several classes of these types of drugs. The first is sulfasalazine, a sulfa drug that works to reduce inflammation and maintain remission. Although it is considered safe for long term use, some people are sensitive to the sulfa component of the drug, and may seek other options. In this case doctors may prescribe mesalamine, which are chemically similar to sulfasalazine but do not contain sulfa. Both of these drugs are designed for mild to moderate Crohn's sufferers, and may not be effective for people with severe cases.

One of the most popular long-term maintenance drugs is azathioprine, known as Imuran, and 6-mercaptopurine, known as 6MP. These drugs are designed for long term remission, and target the immune system. Because they suppress the immune system, symptoms of Crohn's Disease often disappear, but at the risk of infection. They are also extremely slow acting, sometimes taking up to six months to kick in. They are considered safe for long-term use, although because of the way they work on the body, it is considered wise to consult your doctor if you are considering getting pregnant while on these drugs.

A new and powerful drug that is being used to treat Crohn's Disease is infliximab, known as Remicade. This drug is given intravenously every two months and has a very good success rate of inducing remission for long periods of time. However, because it is an immune system suppressant, it is important to monitor the body for adverse reactions or potential infections.

Although drug therapy has proven quite effective in controlling Crohn's Disease, for some people it is not enough. In this case surgery might be considered, although this is always a last resort. There are three major types of surgeries: a resection, which removes the diseased part of the bowel and reconnects the healthy parts of the bowel; a strictureplasty, which opens up strictures and blockages in the intestine; and a ileostomy, which is a complete removal of the colon and the creation of an opening for which the body can eliminate waste. This is a last resort, and is not a very common treatment option except in the most extreme cases.

Drug therapy, hospitalization, and surgery are all approaches taken by western medicine to Crohn's Disease. However, some people do try and find alternative therapies to their condition, and many people find relief. Many Crohn's sufferers link their flare-ups to emotional stress and dietary problems, and attempt to work with their condition in this way. Although not proven in the scientific community, many Crohn's sufferers report finding symptomatic relief through acupuncture, massage therapy, and other stress relieving activities such as yoga and mild exercise. Other patients take nutritional supplements that are soothing to the nervous and digestive system in an attempt to decrease symptoms. Sometimes lifestyle changes can help with a decrease in flare-ups, such as cutting out alcohol or caffeine.

It is important to note that no Crohn's patients should embark upon any alternative therapies without consulting their doctor, especially if they are already taking prescription medication, as certain herbal supplements can interfere with the action of prescription drugs.

Although Crohn's Disease is a relatively mysterious and complicated disease, treatment options are available. With the proper medical attention and a careful attention to lifestyle, most Crohn's patients can lead long and active lives.

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