While there are many effective treatments to help control inflammatory bowel diseases
(IBD), there is no single ideal therapy. Each person is different, as is the treatment
used to control his or her IBD. Your health care team will customize a treatment
plan to your needs, but it’s important for you to have full understanding of available
options. By personally evaluating risks versus benefits, you’re taking control of
your treatment from the start.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are long-term diseases. However, when evaluating
your options, keep in mind that taking medication can significantly reduce the risk
of flares and of developing complications related to IBD that could lead to surgery.
Though a medication may have a chance of causing side effects, potential benefits
may outweigh risks, making the medication a real option.
Risk itself is also important to put into perspective. Consider the risks of
things we do every day.
In the United States, over the course of your life:
- The chance of dying in a car accident is about 1 out of 260.
- The chance of dying from heart disease is about 1 out of 5.
- Then consider that the side effect of an IBD medication could be around 6 out of 10,000. This could be a small risk to take to help maintain a good quality of life.
Different treatment approaches
The current standard approach for treating IBD is the ”bottom-up” approach.
This involves assessing how severe a patient's symptoms are, and choosing treatment
based on that severity.
So, for instance, a patient who has mild symptoms probably would be started on aminosalicylates
or antibiotics. A patient who has more severe symptoms or hasn’t responded to
the first-line of treatment might be prescribed corticosteroids.
But many doctors now think that some patients — particularly those with Crohn’s
disease — would benefit from the ”top-down” treatment approach. This involves
treating the disease more aggressively early on, and with a combination of treatments.
The goal here is to induce remission (absence of symptoms) and then maintain remission.
Doctor communication and adherence
The three main goals of IBD treatment are achieving remission, maintaining remission,
and improving quality of life. It is important to talk to your doctor about the
course of therapy that is best for you — bearing in mind that a combination of therapies
may well turn out to be the optimal treatment plan. Once you start treatment, it’s
important to take your medication as prescribed. If you have questions about your
medications or if you start experiencing side effects, you should talk to your doctor
before stopping a treatment.
Consider using a medication log to track your medication details and any symptoms
or side effects, like GI Buddy, CCFA's interactive disease management
tracker. This can help your doctor evaluate your treatment to make changes or adjustments