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Johns Hopkins Health - With Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Sticking to Treatment Is Key

Spring 2011
Issue No. 12

With Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Sticking to Treatment Is Key

Date: April 21, 2011

pill bottle and pills

Adjusting to life with a chronic medical condition is never easy. For the approximately 1 million Americans who have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an often-debilitating disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, there is pain, the need for medication and unpredictability. Both forms of IBD, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Treatment for either form of IBD requires taking medications for the long haul, says Mark Lazarev, M.D., a Johns Hopkins gastroenterologist who specializes in treating patients who have these conditions. All medications aim to bring symptoms under control and reduce flare-ups by decreasing and suppressing inflammation. Still, finding which treatment is going to work best for each patient can take time. Patients sometimes think they only need to take their medications when they’re having symptoms. But the best chance for treatment success, Lazarev says, involves patients taking their medication every day as prescribed, and consulting with their doctors if they feel the medication isn’t working, or if they are experiencing any kind of side effect.

“We see many patients who are feeling well and decide to stop the medication,” Lazarev says. “If people stop the medications, they’re going to relapse. IBD does not go away on its own.”

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