How Long Does Crohn’s Disease Treatment Last? If you were recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, you probably have all kinds of questions about what comes next. One of the most overwhelming thoughts you may have post-diagnosis: Will I need to be on meds forever?
The truth is, Crohn’s—and all forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), for that matter—doesn’t have a cure yet,1 so the goal of treatment is to keep flare-ups under control and prevent further damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Once you and your doctor land on a care plan that accomplishes these things and works for your lifestyle, you should be able to go about your day-to-day life generally symptom-free.
Until you reach that milestone, you can empower yourself by learning about the steps you and your doctor should take to figure out the best path forward for you. Below, experts break down the basics of Crohn’s disease treatment—including how it works, how long most people need it, and how to cope with the stress of managing this chronic illness.
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First, what does Crohn’s disease treatment usually look like?
Because Crohn’s disease symptoms—and GI damage caused by the disease—stem from chronic inflammation, most first-line treatments aim to stunt that inflammatory process, the NIDDK notes. But the treatment your doctor recommends will ultimately depend on how much of your bowel is inflamed and how badly, Zoe Gottlieb, MD, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, tells SELF.
Some Crohn’s disease treatments—such as oral corticosteroids—help reduce symptoms quickly when they strike (aka a flare-up).2 Other drugs—oral immunomodulators or biologics, which are given via regular injections or IV infusions—help control the disease long-term by slowing or stopping the inflammation response. Some people who have severe Crohn’s complications may need surgery to remove the affected part of their intestines.1
Each person’s experience with Crohn’s disease is different, so each person’s treatment journey is unique, too. You may need to try a combination of meds until you find the right ones for you, or switch your meds up if you stop responding to them over time.3 Working with a board-certified gastroenterologist who specializes in IBD can help streamline the process, Sarah Streett, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist and the director of inflammatory bowel disease education at Stanford Health Care, tells SELF.
Because your treatment can heavily influence your daily routines, your doctor should work with you to find a medication regimen you both feel good about. For example, if you travel a lot for work, you may prefer to do at-home injections rather than in-office IV infusions if you’re on a biologic. Or, if needles make you feel squeamish, it may be easier to have a health care provider insert an IV rather than injecting the medicine yourself. “We want patients to start therapies they will be comfortable being on in a long-term way,” says Dr. Gottlieb.