How Long Does Treatment For Crohn's Disease Take?

Living with Crohn's disease can be challenging due to the unpredictability of the condition. Symptoms can flare up at any time, making it difficult to plan activities or make commitments. The chronic nature of the disease, combined with the physical symptoms and the impact on daily life, can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. If you have been diagnosed with the condition, you're probably aware that there is no cure. However, with the right treatment and support, you can properly manage your symptoms and live a full, productive life. 

Crohn's disease is characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract lining and is typically diagnosed after a period of symptoms  — it is often confirmed through diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, stool tests, endoscopy, and imaging tests (via the Mayo Clinic). A good management plan may help maintain remission and reduce the risk of complications, such as intestinal blockages, fistulas, abscesses, and malnutrition. 

The first line of treatment often focuses on reducing inflammation, which requires a multifaceted approach. A typical treatment plan involves medications, therapy, or a combination of both. Additionally, your doctor may suggest changes to your diet and lifestyle. They might also refer you to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist or a nutritionist, for more personalized care.

Crohn's treatments focus on minimizing symptoms

Because Crohn's disease is a chronic, lifetime condition, treatment focuses on achieving a state of remission. The duration of acute treatments may depend on the severity of the disease, your specific treatment plan, and your response to therapy or medication. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, can help reduce inflammation quickly, sometimes within a few days, according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. Corticosteroids are synthetic version of cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in the human body, per the Cleveland Clinic. These drugs, including prednisone, are commonly used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.

Immunosuppressants, such as azathioprine and methotrexate, are also used to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation; however, they can take a few months to start working, says WebMD. Biologic therapies, also known as tumor therapy necrosis factor, target specific proteins in the immune system that cause inflammation and can effectively treat moderate to severe cases of Crohn's disease. One example of a biologic therapy include infliximab, which on average can take up to four weeks to work after infusion, according to a review published in the British Medical Journal.

Those with Crohn's will need regular evaluations to assess the ongoing need for therapy and monitor for any potential complications or side effects. If your situation is severe, your doctor might also recommend surgery — which approximately half of the people with the condition will eventually require, says the Mayo Clinic. However, the benefits of surgery usually aren't permanent, since the condition is incurable.

Lifestyle changes for management of Crohn's

Besides medications, lifestyle changes are also important in managing symptoms of Crohn's disease. One of the key changes you can make is to modify your diet. Some foods may trigger symptoms, while others may help reduce inflammation and promote healing. WebMD advises avoiding spicy or high-fiber foods, and limiting or avoiding caffeine and alcohol. You can also increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. Working with a registered dietitian who can help you develop a nutrition plan based on your specific needs and symptoms is always best.

Managing stress is also important for reducing your symptoms. According to Medical News Today, stress can worsen symptoms and trigger flare-ups, so finding effective ways to manage stress is key for overall health and well-being. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises may be helpful.

In addition, regular exercise can also be beneficial for managing Crohn's disease. Exercise can help improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health, notes the Mayo Clinic. However, it's important to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program, as high-intensity exercise or certain types of exercise may worsen symptoms.