As COVID-19 continues to spread, more and more people are wondering how they might be affected. If you’re a member of the rare disease community, you know it can be stressful to understand how to manage your condition during this time. But for those with inflammatory bowel disease, the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) has some answers. According to Medical XPress, the AGA recently published guidelines for gastroenterologists. These will shape upcoming treatment for patients with IBD. Read the full guidelines in Gastroenterology.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease encompasses a variety of gastroenterological conditions, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These cause digestive inflammation, which can range from mild to severe. Inflammatory bowel disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal immune system response. However, it can be made worse by smoking cigarettes, stress, or certain medications.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, bloody stool, fatigue, and cramping. If untreated, complications include blood clots, widespread inflammation, colon cancer, and primary sclerosing cholangitis. If you experience the sudden onset of any original symptoms, please speak to your doctor. Learn more about inflammatory bowel disease.
Patients with IBD are at risk of developing infections or complications without treatment. However, COVID-19 makes it increasingly difficult for patients to attend appointments or receive medical care. As a result, the AGA created guidelines to help gastroenterologists deliver the highest level of care at this time.
First, the AGA reminds patients and their families that IBD is not a risk factor for COVID-19. So while it is impossible to affirm completely, patients with IBD are most likely not going to contract COVID-19 at a higher rate than the general population.
Next, the AGA recommends that patients with inflammatory bowel disease continue their drug therapies. This includes scheduled infusions, which combat inflammation and provide symptom relief.
However, if someone with IBD also has COVID-19, they should not take tofacitinib, methotrexate, thiopurines, vedolizumab, ustekinumab, or anti-TNF therapies. Until the coronavirus symptoms fade, patients should not restart their medications. If you have both IBD and COVID-19, talk to your medical providers before making any healthcare decisions.
Finally, the AGA asks doctors to submit COVID-19 diagnoses to COVIDIBD.org. This international database tracks patient data to understand how COVID-19 affects patient outcomes in people with IBD.