Here’s How to Find Relief for Your Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
One of the many frustrating things about living with Crohn’s disease is that it requires lifelong care. While there’s no cure (yet), there are many Crohn’s disease medications that can help reduce your symptoms, such as severe diarrhea and abdominal pain, so you can hopefully have more control over how you feel in your day-to-day life.
In fact the right Crohn’s disease treatment plan can help alleviate your symptoms to the point where you don’t worry about your condition interfering with your plans. Even more importantly, working closely with your doctor can keep you healthier overall because untreated Crohn’s disease can potentially lead to debilitating complications.
“The earlier you control Crohn’s disease, the more likely you are to prevent long-term damage, disability, and hospitalization,” Peter D.R. Higgins, M.D., Ph.D., professor of gastroenterology and director of the IBD Program at the University of Michigan, tells SELF.
Ahead, experts break down the various Crohn’s disease medications and treatments that can make a big difference.
What is Crohn’s disease, exactly?
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract, anywhere from your mouth to the opening of your rectum, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). (Ulcerative colitis is another common form of IBD.)
With IBD, your immune system mistakenly views healthy, harmless cells in your digestive tract as possible threats and attacks them. This reaction sets off long-lasting inflammation, which is responsible for hallmark Crohn’s disease symptoms like painful bowel movement changes, abdominal cramping, fatigue, and even damage to your digestive tract if you don’t get treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with severe Crohn’s disease may drastically lose weight because their bodies can’t absorb a sufficient amount of essential nutrients due to frequent diarrhea. Some people often lose weight because they also feel too sick to eat enough.
Experts aren’t fully sure why only some people develop Crohn’s disease but suspect that genetics may be a factor since the condition can run in families, according to the NLM. So far, researchers have found more than 100 genes associated with IBD, but further studies are needed to understand the connection1. Some people mistakenly believe that certain foods and stress can cause Crohn’s disease—but those factors may only make symptoms worse in certain people—not directly cause the condition in the first place.
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What is a flare-up in Crohn’s disease?
With Crohn’s disease, it’s normal to go through periods of active disease and severe symptoms—called flare-ups—and periods of mild or no symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You may discover that certain things such as emotional stress can trigger a flare-up, even when you’re taking medication. However, it’s important to mention that flare-ups are often triggered by not taking your medication as prescribed. The best way to avoid flare-ups is by finding a treatment that works well for you and sticking to it closely. But you’ll also want to take note of anything that seems to trigger your symptoms and avoid it as best as you can.
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What are the best Crohn’s disease medications?
Working with a gastroenterologist, a gastrointestinal (G.I.) specialist, to find an effective Crohn’s disease treatment plan can hopefully help you achieve remission, which is when you have very few to no symptoms2. Crohn’s disease medications reduce bodily inflammation to not only make you feel better but also to minimize your chances of dealing with complications in the future, including long-term G.I. damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There are many Crohn’s disease medications to choose from, which means you have lots of options. However, because there are various possible routes in your healing journey, it may take a bit of trial and error to find the treatment (or combination of treatments) that work best for you.