New hope in treating a disease that strikes people in the prime of their lives. Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Digestive Health Center is involved in clinical trials for treating Crohn's Disease.
It's affects up to two million Americans. There is no cure, but one woman involved in the trials says she finally has her life back.
For years, Laura Thomason's life has been a lesson in planning. The middle school teacher says if a couple asked her and her husband to dinner, she'd have to know where they were going, what was on the menu and where any restroom facilities might be. The restroom worry, she says, is a fact of life for anyone with Crohn's Disease.
Laura was diagnosed with Crohn's 13 years ago. It's an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain and diarrhea. Laura's case was so severe, she had blood clots and abscesses, and underwent two surgeries to remove parts of her bowel. At one point, she spent two months hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic.
Gastroenterologist Dr. Tom Welton with the Cotton-O'Neil Digestive Health Center, says it's not known what causes Crohn's, and not knowing a cause means most treatments target symptoms after the fact, rather than preventing them.
But Cotton-O'Neil is involved in clinical trials with medications using antibodies to see if it can stop the inflammation in the first place. If it can be kept contained, Dr. Welton says, it can be kept from causing all the other problems.
Laura started a trial around Christmas using the rheumatoid arthritis medication Humira and says she sees a huge difference. She says she gets up ready to start the day, and isn't experiencing the extreme fatigue she had been.
Dr. Welton says Laura's results make it gratifying to be involved in trials. Plus, he says the trials keep Topeka on the cutting edge, offering treatments they hadn't been able to offer before.
Laura, for one, is grateful. She says it's a new freedom to not be preoccupied and worried about all the "nasty little details" of Crohn's.
For more information on clinical trials for Crohn's Disease and other digestive health issues, call 785-270-4856 or 785-270-4881.
For more information on Crohn's Disease, visit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.