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This was written by Alex Kerwin: Posted 9/12/2012
Managing Crohn's Disease:
Crohn’s disease is an inflammation in the bowels that can cause a person to suffer from debilitating symptoms such as frequent diarrhea, stomach pain and weight loss. While no one knows for certain what causes this disease, it has been linked to a variety of reasons that include genetic predisposition, problems within the immune system and environmental causes. While many people suffer for years without treatment, a simple visit to the doctor can help a person to discover if they have Crohn’s disease, and if so, which type they have so that they can begin treatments. When left untreated, Crohn’s disease can lead to more serious problems such as anal bleeding, tears and intestinal obstruction. Therefore, it is important to obtain the necessary treatments required to treat Crohn’s disease.
Many people with Crohn’s have discovered that making a few simple lifestyle changes can help to ease their symptoms of this disease. For example, eating smaller meals that include the proper balance of nutrients and portion control can make it easier for the body to process food. Additionally, avoiding alcohol, tobacco products and other irritants can be helpful for reducing the symptoms of Crohn’s. As with any illness, it is also important for a person to make sure that they receive enough sleep, exercise and relaxation in order to stay in the best physical condition for managing the disease.
For some patients with Crohn’s, it can be helpful to utilize medications as a tool for managing this disease. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for Crohn’s as they have been shown to be effective for reducing intestinal bacteria that can contribute to a flare-up. Additionally, corticosteroids are helpful for reducing inflammation. However, due to their side effects, they are often only given to patients who do not respond well to other methods of treatment. Immunomodulators are also sometimes paired with corticosteroids in order to further enhance the reduction of inflammation in the intestines. Nutritional supplements such as iron may also be given to reduce the effects of bleeding and pain in the patient.
In some situations, Crohn’s disease may progress to the point that surgery is the only option for managing the illness. The type of surgery that a patient will undergo will depend upon the damage that has been caused by the illness. For example, a strictureplasty may be performed in order to widen a blocked passage of the bowels. In the case of a severe form of the disease, a proctocolectomy may be done to remove the colon and rectum completely. In this case, the patient will then need to wear an external bag for waste storage.
Crohn’s disease is best managed through a treatment center that can provide the wide range of services and procedures that are necessary for treating this disease. Patients can benefit from having the support of others who are going through the same symptoms and pain. Additionally, a treatment center can identify and diagnose Crohn’s before the disease has reached the advanced stages. This can enable a person to begin treatments that can prevent further complications from their illness.
The "Empowered" IBD Patient: Writen by The UCLA Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases Posted 10/21/12
The empowered patient is a co-owner of his or her medical care management. He or she takes an active role in providing and collecting information about his/her health such as test results and self-reported health issues. Knowledgeable about his/her illness, he/she can make well-informed day to day decisions that can affect his/her health and engage with his/her medical team in discussions about treatment options. The empowered patient can track his/her health on an ongoing basis and be alerted to potential issues before they become serious problems. He/she can easily access his/her information at all times and have the peace of mind in knowing that his/her medical care team is always available through various forms of communication, whether it be phone calls, emails or online chat.
At the UCLA Center for Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, we hope that every Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis patient will one day be an “empowered” patient because we believe that is the future of healthcare. We believe that equipped with the right tools, patients can be active co-owners of their medical care and benefit from better quality of life, school and work productivity, and general health. For the past year, our team has worked tirelessly to develop the Homecare program to give our patients the tools they need to proactively manage their care. Participants in our Homecare program have access to a patient portal via the iPad. The Homecare program provides resources to our patients that can help them not only with day to day management of their disease but also long term planning for treatment options. Our program participants can access medical information about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and medications that have been thoroughly reviewed by our team of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) specialists. The patient portal provides participants with schedules and reminders for medication, test results and clinic visits to help them stay on top of these important tasks. Through our Homecare program, participants can easily share self-reported health information with their medical care team and communicate with them via email or online chat to discuss health concerns.
While there are mobile apps in the market such as GIMonitor that provide similar tools for patients, they’re missing an important component: communication with the patient’s team of doctors and nurses to monitor and respond back to the patient. We believe that it is crucial for physicians and nurses to continually monitor their patients’ health outside of office visits to ensure that treatments are working as intended and health concerns are addressed promptly.
Does the “empowered” patient that we’ve described above sound good to you? What else would you like to be able to do as an “empowered” patient? What stops you from being that patient?