Living with any chronic disease can be a challenge, and Crohn's is no exception. The extremely painful flare-ups make day-to-day living seem impossible and when the disease is in remission, the stress of worrying about the next one can be almost as bad. So, how do deal with these flare-ups when they happen?
A Crohn's flare-up is usually associated with the onset of symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, weight loss, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding, a loss of appetite and diarrhea.
The first step is being able to recognize the risk factors involved in dealing with flare-ups. Maybe the easiest risk factor to avoid is exposure to tobacco products, weather you're smoking them yourself or if your family members or friends are.
Another major risk factor for Crohn's flare-ups is stress. While it's impractical to think that you can remove stress from your life completely, making a concerted effort to try to limit the amount of stress can seriously reduce the amount of and severity of Crohn's flare-ups. Things like yoga or medication or even just making time in your schedule to read a good book can be great ways to relax and stave off the stress monster.
Another possible trigger for Crohn's disease is a woman's menstrual cycle. Many women who suffer from Crohn's experience an increase in flare-ups during their period. It's recommended that women who experience this keep a diary over a period of months to look for trends and help develop a treatment regiment with your doctor to put an end to the cycle.
The use of some over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) have also been linked to Crohn's flare-ups. If you need a non-prescription pain killer, consult your doctor to see what kind is right for you.
Treatment for these flare-ups fall into three basic categories: drug treatment, nutritional adjustments and surgery.
The most common drug to treat Crohn's are anti-inflammatories, such as Sulfasalazine. This drug has shown to work for a majority of Crohn's sufferers, but it's not a cure-all. And like with all drugs, there are side effects such as nausea, vomiting and headache.
If you have moderate to severe Crohn's, the FDA has approved a drug called Remicade. The drug actually blocks the bodies inflammatory response. This drug is only used for patients who don't respond to more traditional treatments.
Nutritional supplements are another common way to deal with Crohn's flare-ups. This course of action is geared to those that don't want to put medications in their bodies and are looking for a more natural alternative. Foods to avoid, such as spicy foods, whole grains and dairy products are a good first step. Drinking high protein shakes to make up for the fact that a patients intestines are so ravaged so that they don't absorb nutrients anymore is another common way to help treat the disease. These are especially common in kids who need nutrients to grow.
A large number of Crohn's patients will need surgery at some point to deal with the long-term effects of the disease. Sufferers are warned, however, that removing a section of intestine doesn't cure the disease, but may be necessary if that area becomes to deteriorated by ulcers. It should be used as a last resort.