Hospitalizations can be a common occurrence for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Whether for dehydration, pain control, complications or surgery, hospital stays can be grossly expensive and disruptive for many patients. Limiting the number of hospital stays can drastically improve a patient’s life. Check out these tips to keep your IBD in check and avoid the hospital.
Work with a specialist to monitor your condition.
Even when you are feeling okay it is important to keep appointments with your specialist and have your IBD monitored. Your specialist can keep close track of your disease through laboratory tests, colonoscopy and MRI scans. This helps to ensure that inflammation is actually gone and can catch flare-ups before they cause significant damage. Treating any minor flare-ups quickly can prevent them from turning into something requiring a hospital stay.
Biologics are targeted treatments that work by stopping certain proteins in the body from causing inflammation and have become extremely important in the arsenal against IBD. Lowered rates of hospitalization for any reason have been documented in patients who added a biologic to their IBD treatment plan. Long-term prevention of flare-ups has also been seen in patients on biologics, with up to four years of remission seen in one study. These resulting remissions reduced the need for surgery, which further reduces hospital stays. If you are not currently using a biologic to treat your IBD and your symptoms are not in remission, maybe it’s time to discuss the risk versus benefit with your physician.
Avoid other infections.
Coming down with an infection may not seem like a huge deal when you have IBD, but taking medications to treat an infection, like antibiotics or NSAIDs, can trigger additional IBD symptoms. Long-term use of oral corticosteriods can affect the immune system as well, increasing the likelihood that an infection of any kind could land you in the hospital. Practicing proper hand washing and avoiding contact with people who are sick or have recently been sick can help limit your infections. If you are on oral corticosteroids or any medication that affects the immune system you should talk with your doctor immediately if you notice any signs of illness.
Take care of your overall health.
Let’s be honest: when you feel like you are at the doctor’s office all the time for IBD, scheduling an appointment to monitor the rest of your health might be the last thing on your mind. But managing your IBD does not always mean that your doctor is keeping an eye on other aspects of your health. Scheduling an appointment with your family practice physician and knowing your numbers (blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol to name a few) can be key in diagnosing and treating things like heart disease and diabetes.
With studies suggesting that people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease are at a higher risk for cardiovascular events like heart attack or stroke, these well checks are even more important. In addition to these issues, your family practice physician can also help you monitor long-term side effects of your current medications, like keeping an eye on your bone density if you frequently use oral steroids.
With these tips and an open line of communication with your specialist and family practice physician you can do your part to stay healthy and avoid hospital stays.
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Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.