What should I know about my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease?

doctor_consultCrohn’s disease is a condition that falls under the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) umbrella of illnesses. It’s characterized by the inflammation of the bowel and/or any other part of the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract.

Because Crohn’s can be debilitating, people diagnosed with this disease may have many questions about how to manage their symptoms and how to move forward with their lives.

Crohn’s is listed under IBD 5.06 of the Digestive System section of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book of impairments. And because it’s not always easy to obtain disability benefits for this disease, it’s helpful to hire a Social Security (SS) disability attorney to step you through the process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Crohn’s Disease

  1. Is there a cure for Crohn’s? While there is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, there are lifestyle changes and medications to help mitigate the symptoms of this condition. A critical focus for reducing these symptoms is to reduce bowel inflammation, and treatment can sometimes be effective in bringing the disease into long-term remission. There are two general approaches to treating this disease:
  • The “step-up” approach. When using this approach, a doctor begins by treating the patient with mild drugs and then slowly increasing the doses as needed.
  • The “top-down” approach. If a doctor takes this approach, she’ll start treating the patient with stronger drugs and then slowly decrease the dosage as the patient’s symptoms improve.

Patients may be given immunosuppressants and steroids to slow the progression of Crohn’s, and if they don’t work, it’s possible that a doctor may recommend surgery.

  1. Can I smoke if I have Crohn’s disease? Research shows that symptoms in Crohn’s patients who smoke may be more severe, and smoking may increase complications of this condition. Additionally, smoking may increase the need for patients to be treated with higher doses of medications and steroids, as well as putting them a higher risk for surgery. When patients decrease or quit smoking, their flare-ups and risk of complications are often reduced.

Research also indicates other risks associated with cigarette smoking, including:

  • Smoking may be linked to the onset of Crohn’s.
  • Smoking may be linked to a patient’s more frequent relapses.
  • Smoking may be linked to a patient’s poor outcomes after surgery is performed to repair the bowel or other portion of the GI tract.
  • Smoking may be linked to a reduced response to medications.
  1. Should I stop taking my medication if I’m pregnant? It’s not true that you need to stop drug treatment when you’re pregnant, although it’s always important to talk with your doctor about the best way to manage your medication when you’re having a baby. According to an August 2012 study of over 1,100 women published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, babies born to women taking medication for their IBD didn’t have an above average rate of infections or congenital anomalies.

However, if you’re going to get pregnant and your Crohn’s isn’t well controlled, you may face a higher risk for complications. Additionally, you may want to see an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

  1. Is there a diet that can help my Crohn’s symptoms? Doctors understand that a person’s diet doesn't cause Crohn’s disease. And while there’s no known link between eating certain foods and Crohn’s, it is known that some foods can irritate a patient’s flare-ups. Thus, making modifications to your diet can help decrease the symptoms of Crohn’s.

If your Crohn’s makes it difficult for you to absorb nutrients, doctors may recommend a high-calorie, high-protein diet—a regimen you should follow even if you’re not hungry.

Foods that trigger Crohn’s symptoms are different for every patient, and it can be helpful to know which foods trigger yours. Many people who suffer from this disease find that some of the foods on the following list may aggravate their symptoms during a flare-up:

  • Tea and coffee
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • High-fiber foods
  • All alcohol, including mixed drinks
  • Raw fruits and vegetables
  • Foods that are spicy
  • Nuts, seeds, whole grains, bran
  • Lentils, beans, cabbage, broccoli, onions

Some research indicates that alcohol consumption in moderation doesn’t harm people suffering from Crohn’s—one drink a day for women and two for men is usually acceptable. It’s also possible that moderate alcohol consumption may have benefits, because alcohol slightly suppresses the immune system. However, heavy drinking is never recommended and can lead to flare-ups.

When You Need Disability for Crohn’s

If you suffer from Crohn’s disease and need SS benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can answer your questions and help you with the application process. We also handle SS disability claims for clients who need assistance with the appeals process if their claims were denied. Contact us by phone at (402) 933-5405, or fill out our online form.

 

Timothy J. Cuddigan
Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience