Managing your IBD

There is no medical cure for either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. But there are ways to help manage the disease and control it to prevent flare-ups and complications. These are:

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Medication for IBD

Medication plays a vital role in helping to manage both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Generally, medicines work to help reduce inflammation in the intestines, allowing the affected areas to heal. This will help to relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, and abdominal pain.

Treatment aims to:

  • Relieve symptoms of a flare-up
  • Achieve remission (the absence of symptoms). Your doctor may call this 'induction of remission'. Once your symptoms are under control, the treatment will aim to keep you free from any symptoms in the long-term. That is called 'maintenance treatment'
  • Prevent complications thereby improving the quality of life

Some of the medications used for these different aims may be the same, but they are given in different dosages and for different lengths of time for different stages of the disease.

The type of treatment will differ depending on your general health and how your condition is affecting you. Your treatment plan will be based on the following elements:

  • Whether you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Your past health and treatment history
  • Your personal needs, wishes and expectations

For people with ulcerative colitis, treatment depends on the amount of the large bowel affected and the severity of the inflammation. For example, disease in the lower part of the bowel may be treated with drugs administered directly into the rectum with an enema or suppository, but inflammation in other parts of the bowel may be treated orally using tablets.

For Crohn’s disease, treatment with medicines similar to those used for ulcerative colitis is also usually the first approach. However, with Crohn’s disease, drugs that suppress the immune system are used more often to help control the inflammation and as maintenance therapy to help keep symptoms from coming back.

With both diseases, surgery may be needed if medication does not work well or if there are complications, although treatment with medicine is usually the first approach. If you are wondering about the possibility of needing surgery, speak with your doctor.

Establishing a treatment plan

Once you have been diagnosed with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, your doctor will devise a treatment plan which usually involves a maintenance treatment which is the medicine you need to take everyday to prevent any flare-ups.

You will need to have regular follow-up appointments to make sure the treatment is working and that it suits you and your lifestyle as well as to monitor the course of the condition.

Try to follow this treatment plan as closely as possible, as this is the best way of keeping your IBD under control.

If the plan appears to be failing, or if you start to suffer from any side effects, talk to your doctor, who can review or change your medicines accordingly.

You may also be referred to an IBD nurse specialist, who will be able to provide you with additional support, details of other information sources and patient support groups.

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