To endure Colitis is to be tougher than nails. Nobody wants their strength tested in this way. The good news is that many people diagnosed can achieve remission with the variety of treatments available.
The not-as-great news is that it can take some juggling by doctors to achieve the exact combination of medicines that work for each individual. Every person reacts to medicine types and dosages differently. Also, what works at first, may not always work. Bodies change, as well as circumstances, stress levels and other factors.
How communication helps
Taking a consistently active role in your health is vital to your outcome. Top of the list here is open and frequent communication with your doctor. If your doctor doesn’t know exactly how you’re doing, they can’t finesse the treatment.
Don’t assume that certain symptoms are typical, or that being in remission only once in a while is just how it is for you. Some people suffer unnecessarily because they haven’t informed their doctor of what’s going on. The goal is remission and many people achieve this for long periods of time.
On the flip side, there are people with symptoms who aren’t diagnosed with Colitis initially, who should be. It is okay to press for tests, such as blood tests or a colonoscopy, to confirm a correct diagnosis.
When prescribed medicine, be specific with your doctor and let her know what side effects you’re experiencing. They are also important considerations in the treatment package.
Look into the long-term side effects. Not to stress you out further, but to make educated decisions based on your body.
For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, Prednisone is an anti-inflammatory drug used for inflammation management. It can thin bones (among other heinous side effects) in the long run. If your genetics predispose you to osteoporosis, consider looking into other options for the long-term.
You know your body, tendency towards stress and motivational level more than anyone. You know whether you’ll be able to handle certain side effects or maintain specific dietary restrictions.
Being prepared typically gives people a feeling of control over their unpredictable situation. That reduces stress, which reduces symptoms.
Stay on top of new treatments, talk to people, and research forums for hope and answers you may not find elsewhere.
Fighting to take an active role is rough when you’re feeling the fatigue, pain and anxiety of this ‘invisible’ disease. Not as recognized by society as other diseases like cancer, for example, it doesn’t receive the same support and isn’t as well known. This in turn causes further anxiety to the sufferer, who may feel misunderstood.
Since everyone reacts to stress differently, has a different mindset and has varying levels of support, the degree of negative emotions and bodily effects vary from person to person.
Despite how hard it is to stay on top of being proactive, it will make all the difference in your well-being and your future.
Are my symptoms normal?
A symptom such as extreme fatigue is a common hurdle when taking charge of your life. It can be difficult to treat if you don’t know why it’s occurring.
Since fatigue is so common in general, some people don’t bother to relay this symptom to their doctor. Dehydration and lack of nutrient absorption absolutely contribute. You can request tests to have these problems addressed.
The disease takes a lot of energy out of your body that’s hard to replace. Some people more than others. Yet don’t assume that what you’re experiencing is normal or that you have to settle for a low quality of life.
Just as Colitis symptoms will be varied for each individual, so will each course of treatment.
Five or so out of every 100 people with the disease have symptoms all the time and don’t go into remission. Are their genetics different? Their motivational level to maintain dietary restrictions? Their ability to tolerate medicines? There are many possible causes for symptom variability.
Each person’s life experiences, emotional wellness, support system, genetics, choices and environmental factors all play a mysterious part in how this disease comes about and where it will lead.
What determines treatment?
Treatment goals are always aimed toward entering remission, then maintaining remission. Although the causes of the disease and symptoms are often unknown, there are links to certain behaviors in certain people. For example, some former smokers can achieve remission by taking up smoking again.
Since doctors typically won’t recommend taking up smoking again, they look at other factors when recommending a course of action. Which section of the intestine is affected and how much it is inflamed can determine the severity of symptoms and the treatment path.
For surface symptom management, over-the-counter medicines such as anti-diarrheal, anti-gas and acetaminophen can help. Some people with mild issues can get away with just these remedies.
In Western medicine a succession of treatments are attempted to eradicate symptoms. These treatments are increasingly stronger based on individual need and are associated with various risks and negative effects.
When people have mid-to-moderate symptoms, there are Aminosalicylates to reduce inflammation and maintain remission. Corticosteroids are then used when Aminosalicylates aren’t enough to initially dampen symptoms. Since steroids have more profound side effects, they are the next round of arsenal.
Immunomodulators can be coupled with the above medicines since they take about 3 months to start working. It must be taken into account that they weaken the immune system. However, this isn’t a problem for some people whose immune systems are in overdrive and causing the inflammation in the first place. They do have strong side effects also, but decrease the need for steroids in the long-run.
Biologics, a somewhat new remedy, blocks inflammatory response. They are engineered from living cells and are used for moderate to severe symptoms when other treatments haven’t worked. Not as easy to administer, they require an injection at home or intravenous administration at a medical facility.
Patients are told when administered biologics that they will eventually get stomach cancer. The alternative is that when Colitis is left untreated, after about 8 years colon cancer will develop.
Surgery is an option for those who don’t respond to medications. Surgery entails extreme body changes and so shouldn’t be considered lightly.
Think of your lifestyle, the lifestyle you want and how the result might be for you. Talk to others, online and in person. Some are very happy with the surgery they’ve had- others not so much. It is very individual.
With the J-pouch surgery for example, you have to wear a bag on the outside of your body for about 8 weeks that you empty every 1 to 3 days. Following that it is necessary to eat very small meals and hydrate by drinking half your body weight in ounces daily. You will continue to have to use the bathroom soon after meals, and it will continue to be uncomfortably acidic. This is something to consider when deciding on surgery, but it is the only option some people have.
Since everyone’s body is different, some strong in one area, some weak in another, side effects of medication and surgery vary widely from person to person. Some might have severe side effects and others very few for a particular drug.
How lifestyle is part of treatment
While medication needs vary in individuals, nutrition and stress control are always high on the list of advised lifestyle choices. Since everyone has some type of stress, and most people have to support themselves in some manner, it is impossible to eliminate stress. It is possible though to change your response to stressors.
Flare-ups tend to occur at the advent of stress for most. Studies done at Coventry University indicate that yoga and meditation change bodily responses at the DNA level.
Again, how diligently a person is in pursuing whole body health can make a difference.
Many people know all too well how emotional health is affected by this disease. The physical pain, mental strain, anxiety and time draining effects can take huge tolls. Couple that with a lack of a support system and you have a recipe for severe stress.
This is where choice of treatment and other life choices really come together in improving the quality of your life. What works for one person may not work for you, or might be a great idea.
Since emotional health is so tied to physical health and the circumstances that surround it, it becomes more important than ever to attend to both. You as a unique person will determine your treatment and path.
Everyone is handed some circumstances and chooses others. Your reactions to your circumstances and your choices impact your life and your health.