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Coping with crohn’s disease

Fine-tuning Crohn’s disease treatment can make a huge difference.

Pain and cramping can put you on the sidelines but sometimes that stomach ache isn’t a passing phase. For many, it’s a constantly recurring problem that can derail their daily life.

Nearly 800,000 people suffer from crohn’s disease.  Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller sat down with a Pike County woman who is trying to cope with this chronic condition.

“Diarrhea or constipation. Vomiting. Very fatigued,” said Pamela Smirman. Those are just some of the unbearable symptoms the Milford woman experienced for a year and a half. When asked if it was really debilitating she said, “Yes, especially when you have six kids running around.”

Looking for answers to what was making her sick, Pamela reached out to several doctors including Geisinger Gastroenterologist Seth Kaufer. She was diagnosed with crohn’s disease. Her immune system was overreacting and attacking her digestive system. Dr. Kaufer said, “The disease is an inflammatory disorder so there’s inflammation in her bowels. You know, that’s shown on her blood work, her scans, her biopsies.”

The inflammation in her digestive tract needed to be controlled. She was put on anti-inflammatory medication short-term. “Like steroids which we don’t want to put people on if they don’t need it,” explained Dr. Kaufer. “It can lower your immunity but it really helps with this sort of disorder.”

Dr. Kaufer prescribed intravenous biologic infusions every six to eight weeks to reduce the inflammatory cells in Pamela’s body. “I sit there for four hours or three hours and wait for the medicine to go through the IV and then I’m done,” she said. Dr. Kaufer added, “Now that we have her on a more long-term treatment that’s not a steroid, an infusion that we use for patients who have very complicated disease, that’s the most effective treatment long-term.”

Pamela’s symptoms are no longer as severe. She is relieved she’s found a better way to cope for a disease with no cure. “It takes a toll on you but my philosophy is you just have to adapt and overcome. You can’t let the disease control you.”

Pamela has also switched to a gluten-free diet and avoid nuts and seeds which can irritate her condition.

Read on: Coping with crohn's disease

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