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New Hope for Crohn's Disease

New Hope for Crohn's disease


Getting Crohn's disease under control

Allegheny Center for Digestive Health helping Crohn’s disease patients enjoy better quality of life

New hope for Crohn's disease

While Nicholas hopes medical researchers will discover a cure for this inflammatory bowel disease, he has found the next best thing: long-term remission without incapacitating symptoms. “My life is pretty much normal now, thanks to the great care I get from the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health,” says Nicholas, 35, a resident of South Fayette Township. “I have been able to keep this disease under control for more than six years now. And I’m confident I can stay symptom-free and continue enjoying my life for many years to come.”

 Nicholas is one of more than 1.4 million Americans who have Crohn’s disease, a condition that can strike anyone at any age (although it mostly affects people between the ages of 15 to 35). Crohn’s disease is characterized by an inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract: this causes symptoms such as abdominal cramps, persistent diarrhea, fever and fatigue. According to Paul Lebovitz, MD, director, Allegheny Center for Digestive Health (part of West Penn Allegheny Health System), Crohn’s disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissue.
“In some cases, there is a genetic component to Crohn’s disease,” explains Dr. Lebovitz. “In other cases, certain types of intestinal bacteria can cause this condition. In addition, environmental factors and stress can trigger flare-ups of symptoms.”
Nicholas first experienced symptoms of Crohn’s disease when he was 11 years old. “It was difficult knowing that I wasn’t a normal kid,” he recalls. “I would have to put my favorite activities on hold because of Crohn’s disease.”
For the next nine years, Nicholas visited a variety of doctors and tried different medications. But nothing seemed to work. Then he learned how the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health was helping many patients with Crohn’s disease to better manage their illness. Nicholas met with Dr. Lebovitz, who outlined treatment options that could be more beneficial.
“Dr. Lebovitz instantly put me at ease,” says Nicholas. “He was very down to earth and clearly explained what the center could do to help me. I also was impressed with how much he cared about my well being.”
Following extensive testing, Nicholas was diagnosed with moderate Crohn’s disease. “Like many other young patients, Nicholas learned how to cope with his disease,” says Dr. Lebovitz. “But it was obvious that Crohn’s disease was disrupting his quality of life. Our goal was to put his disease into remission.”
The Allegheny Center for Digestive Health offers a variety of treatments for Crohn’s disease, including antibiotics, immunosuppressants (medicines that restrain the immune system), biologics (genetically engineered medications that decrease inflammation in the intestines) and surgery. A multidisciplinary team of specialists also works with doctors at the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health to address various issues that may be impacting Crohn’s disease, such as diet, stress and other medical conditions.
For Nicholas, surgery was one of his best options because his Crohn’s disease had reached an advanced stage. In 2000, Nicholas had a successful ileocolectomy procedure at Allegheny General Hospital. During this procedure, a surgeon removed a diseased section of Nicholas’ bowel and reattached the healthy ends of his intestines. Nicholas soon noticed a remarkable improvement in his condition. In addition, he gets an intravenous infusion of REMICADE® at Allegheny General Hospital every eight weeks. REMICADE reduces inflammation, creates healing of intestinal lesions and moves the patient into remission.
“My quality of life has improved tremendously since I entrusted my care to the Allegheny Center for Digestive Health. I have been largely symptom-free for a number of years,” says Nicholas, who is married and has two children. A graduate of Westminster College, he is co-owner of Don’s Appliances, a highly successful appliance retailer with three locations in the Pittsburgh area. In his free time, Nicholas enjoys running, hiking and biking, as well as relaxing with his family and friends.
Because persons with Crohn’s disease have a slightly higher chance of developing colorectal cancer, Nicholas has a colonoscopy every two years. “It’s a simple procedure that can save your life,” he says. “Early detection is the key to curing colon cancer.”
Nicholas often talks with people who are newly diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. His message is one of hope. “I tell patients not to be afraid. With the proper treatment, you can have a good life. Above all, I tell patients that just because they have stomach issues, that doesn’t mean they are different than anyone else. Crohn’s disease hasn’t changed who I am; in fact, I think it has made me an even stronger person.”
To be referred to a gastrointestinal specialist at West Penn Allegheny Health System, call 412.DOCTORS (412.362.8677).

Related Information:

Celiac Disease is a lifelong inherited autoimmune condition affecting children and adults
Find A Doctor at WPAHS
Find A Doctor that Specializes in Crohn's disease


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