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Lourdes Gastroenterologist Hosts Support Group for Patients with Irritable Bowel Disease

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) causes abdominal pain, frequent diarrhea, and often sends people to the doctor for advice on how to relieve symptoms.

More serious, however, is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBD can cause bleeding, pain and weight loss. It affects more than 1.2 million Americans.

“IBD patients require lifelong medical supervision and compliance, which is usually dependent on a strong physician-patient relationship, without which these diseases often are characterized by more frequent flares, few periods of remission and complications that can require surgery,” said Andrew Conn, MD, gastroenterologist with Lourdes Medical Associates. “Management of IBD often involves a multidisciplinary team of specialists, with each involved with one specific aspect of a patient’s disease.”

Dr. Conn says he also encourages those with IBD to gain support from others who are living with the disease. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) has more than 40 chapters and holds more than 300 support groups where patients and family members can connect to others living with these disease.

Dr. Conn hosts a CCFA support group for Camden County and the surrounding communities. Held the first Tuesday of each month in the Board Room at Lourdes Medical Associates, 500 Grove Street in Haddon Heights, the meeting is free and offers a place where patients and their loved ones can share stories.

“I highly encourage anyone affected by IBD to attend a focus session,” said Dr. Conn. “Patients and family members can gain emotional support, find answers to questions, and connect with a community who shares the same challenges.”

The exact cause of IBD is not known. As of today, there is no cure. Patients undergo blood tests, colonoscopy, specialized CT or MRI and other tests such as video capsule endoscopy as part of the diagnosis and treatment process.

Doctors try to reduce flare-ups and relieve symptoms through medicine, and surgery if needed. Medical therapies include:

  • Anti-inflammatories like mesalamines
  • Immune system suppressors, such as azathioprine or methotrexate
  • Steroids, such as prednisone
  • New steroid medications, which are associated with fewer side effects  

At least half of IBD patients also take supplements like probiotics, added Dr. Conn.

A new frontier in the treatment of IBD includes drugs called “biologics.” Biologics are designed to inhibit parts of the immune system that contribute to inflammation–a central cause of IBD. Biologics include Remicade, Humira, Cimzia, Simponi and recently introduced Entyvio, a new biologic with a different mode of suppressing the immune system.

“In the near future, as a result of the tremendous amount of interest and scientific research into the understanding and causes of these diseases, new biologics and other treatments will become available,” said Dr. Conn. “The microbiome–bacteria and viruses that live in the colon and help the body function–has become a central topic of interest that may hold the answers to the ultimate treatment and cure of these two potentially devastating diseases.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Conn, call 1-888-LOURDES.



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