Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects your digestive system. It’s one type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
With Crohn’s disease, your immune system is overactive, causing inflammation, irritation, and pain in many parts of your digestive tract. Symptoms often include abdominal pain, diarrhea, tiredness, and weight loss.
There are several types of medications to help manage symptoms of Crohn’s, including biologic medications like Humira (adalimumab).
In this article, we’ll discuss how Humira works, possible side effects, and other key information about this treatment for Crohn’s.
Humira is an injectable medication that belongs to a group of medications called biologics.
Biologic drugs like Humira help reduce inflammation and manage symptoms of Crohn’s by blocking the inflammatory reactions in your body. This can help ease Crohn’s symptoms and assist with disease remission.
Humira may be prescribed for you as the first-choice treatment to manage moderate to severe Crohn’s. Or the drug may be considered if other treatment options haven’t worked for you.
You and your doctor can discuss the benefits and risks of Humira and whether it’s a good option for you.
Humira can have some serious side effects. In most cases, these are rare. Some potential side effects of Humira include:
- redness, pain, swelling, or itching at the injection site
- upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold
- sinus infection
- abdominal pain
- back pain
- urinary tract infection
- high blood pressure
- serious allergic reaction (rash, itching, swelling of the face or tongue, difficulty breathing)
This is just a partial list of Humira side effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a full list of side effects, precautions, and warnings.
If you experience bothersome side effects from Humira, be sure to talk with your doctor.
If you have a serious allergic reaction while taking Humira, call 911 right away or have someone take you to the nearest emergency medical center.
Humira may not be right for everyone and can cause serious side effects.
Your risk for side effects is higher if:
- you’re prone to infections
- you have a weakened immune system
- you have other serious health conditions, such as a heart condition, impaired immune system, organ transplant, or liver problems
Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of treatment with Humira and what to expect with treatment.
Humira has a
- serious infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and histoplasmosis
- cancers, such as those of the skin, breast, colon, prostate, lung, as well as lymphoma and leukemia
In addition to the black box warning, there are some other serious risks to be aware of, including:
- hepatitis B reactivation (flare up) if you’ve had hepatitis B in the past
- worsening of neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and Guillain-Barré syndrome
- blood disorders, such as anemia and leukopenia
- congestive heart failure
You should avoid getting any live vaccines while you’re on Humira. For children under 18, required vaccines should be up to date before starting Humira.
If you plan to become pregnant, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding, talk with your doctor to learn whether Humira is safe for you. Humira does pass into breast mil, so it isn’t recommended while breastfeeding.
Your doctor will talk with you about all the risks of Humira and whether it’s a good option to manage your condition.
Research shows that Humira is effective for managing moderate to severe symptoms of Crohn’s and helping to maintain remission.
Clinical studies have followed adults who received Humira as their first biologic and those who failed to maintain remission with another biologic drug (infliximab). Of these people, between 21 and 36 percent achieved remission within 4 weeks. Also, 52 to 58 percent of them had symptom improvement.
For children 6 to 17 years old with moderate to severe Crohn’s, treatment with Humira was effective. Studies show that at 26 weeks, around 28 to 39 percent had remission. Also, 48 to 59 percent of children had improvement in their symptoms.
Keep in mind that to manage symptoms and maintain remission, your dose may need to be adjusted from time to time.
It’s important to follow your doctor’s treatment plan to avoid flare-ups of Crohn’s. This includes continuing Humira while in remission. If you’re experiencing side effects or have other concerns about your treatment, talk with your doctor.
Biologics aren’t right for everyone. If you have a weakened immune system or have certain health conditions, your doctor will discuss other treatment options.
Tips for using Humira
Humira comes as an injection that you give yourself under the skin (subcutaneously). Your doctor will show you how to give the injection properly so that you’re confident in taking Humira at home.
The injection is given in the abdomen or front of the thigh. It’s thought to be less painful when given into the abdomen. Make sure you periodically move your injection site to lessen pain and to lower your risk for an infection.
Here are the steps for injecting Humira:
- Collect all your injection supplies.
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Sit down if you think it’ll make you more comfortable and stable.
- Clean and prepare your injection site.
- Check to make sure you have the right dose.
- Give the injection according to your doctor’s directions.
- Dispose of the used injection according to safe disposal requirements where you live.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that can interfere with your quality of life. Although scientists don’t know the exact cause of Crohn’s disease, family history, stress, diet, and environmental factors may all play a role.
New treatments, such as biologics, are helping more people manage their symptoms and achieve remission for longer periods of time. Most people with Crohn’s go through cycles of relapse and remission.
Humira is effective at reducing moderate to severe symptoms of Crohn’s disease for many people and can improve your daily life.
If you’ve been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, your doctor will discuss the best treatment options with you. Ask about the latest treatments available to help manage your condition and the pros and cons of Humira.