March 8, 2019

Crohn’s Disease Patient Finds Team Treatment at UAMS

Dr. Cyrus Tamboli advises UAMS patient Jacob Smith and his mother, Becky Smith.

Dr. Cyrus Tamboli advises UAMS patient Jacob Smith and his mother, Becky Smith.

At 79 pounds, Jacob Smith was the smallest person in his ninth grade class. Concerned that Jacob was not able to participate in activities that other teenagers enjoy, his family began searching for answers.

After medical testing, Jacob was diagnosed with arthritis. While the arthritis diagnosis offered an explanation for some of Jacob’s symptoms, he could not gain weight and had bleeding caused by an inflamed colon. Before his intestinal condition was treated, Jacob had no appetite or energy and just wanted to lie in the bed all day.

After medical testing, Jacob was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes ulcerations in the gut lining and can lead to poor functioning of the digestive system.

With medical treatment, Jacob gained 30 pounds in a short period of time and was able to resume school and extracurricular activities in his hometown of Lake Village, Arkansas.

Crohn’s disease can develop at any age, but the condition usually first appears in individuals between the ages of 15 and 35. Research has documented that an interplay of genetic and environmental contributors leads to the development of Crohn’s disease. Symptoms vary from person to person and can include joint pain, bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and fatigue. Because these symptoms may be indicative of other conditions, Crohn’s disease is frequently challenging to diagnose. The severity of this condition varies – even for the same person over time — and triggers for relapse are often hard to identify or prevent.

Like many other patients with Crohn’s disease, Jacob was in remission for several years. But Jacob recently experienced a severe relapse. He was admitted to the UAMS hospital for urgent intervention to get his condition under control. Jacob and his family were relieved to find Cyrus P. Tamboli, M.D., FRCPC, a well-known expert in the evaluation and treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.

Due to severe bleeding, Jacob needed five units of blood transfused along with a unique combination of intravenous medications. Jacob slowly but surely responded to his individualized treatment program administered at UAMS. He is remission again, and his quality of life has greatly improved. Currently, Jacob returns to UAMS clinics for regular check-ups to ensure his medications are all up-to-date and adjusted, if needed.

The goals of IBD treatment are to induce healing of the intestinal damage, prevent complications, improve overall quality of life and to help patients with coping strategies. “I am only one small piece of a great team of physicians, surgeons, nurses and other health care professionals at UAMS who contribute to the effective care for people with inflammatory bowel diseases,” notes Dr. Tamboli.

Since Crohn’s disease causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies, appropriate treatment is crucial to ensure that organs are not damaged. Accordingly, UAMS offers hope to IBD patients through disease management at an academic medical center, providing a multidisciplinary team of specialists who work collaboratively to provide cutting-edge medical care.

“It is unusual for a Crohn’s patient to stay in remission forever. But with good treatment and personalized care, remission can be maintained for many, many years,” said Dr. Tamboli. Estimates indicate that, collectively, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect up to ½% of the whole population. Dr. Tamboli believes this estimate may be low.

In his job as the plant manager for a grain elevator, Jacob frequently works long hours and has a wide range of duties, including taking samples from trucks and driving to visit farms in his area of the state. Thankful to be able to return to his regular activities, Jacob will continue to receive outpatient medical treatment by Dr. Tamboli through the UAMS Gastroenterology Clinic.

Now Jacob wants to encourage other patients with inflammatory bowel disease to seek evaluation and treatment so that they can also live a full life. “I think it’s sad when people say, ‘I can’t do anything because I have Crohn’s.’ They just get down in the dumps. But you know, there are things you can do. You can control it, so don’t let it control you.”