As the saying goes: "Age is a case of mind over matter: If you don't mind, it don't matter."
But for older patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and the clinicians who treat them, it’s hard to ignore the complications that aging can bring, such as comorbidities, functional limitations, and polypharmacy, said Nana Bernasko, CRNP, DNP, WHNP-BC, a nurse practitioner in the department of gastroenterology at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa.
“We are seeing a large number of patients in our clinics that are being diagnosed later on in life,” she said in an oral presentation at the annual Crohn’s & Colitis Congress®, a partnership of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and the American Gastroenterological Association.
Between 10% and 30% of all patients with IBD are older than 60, and roughly 10%-15% of patients with IBD are diagnosed after age 60, she said.
The diagnosis of IBD is often delayed in older patients as well, with an estimated 60% of patients initially given an incorrect or incomplete diagnosis that may lead to significant delays in the initiation of appropriate therapy, she said.
Differential diagnoses for IBD in older patients include diverticulitis, ischemic colitis, infectious colitis, and radiation colitis.
Bharati Kochar, MD, MS, from the Crohn’s and Colitis Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the presentation, agreed that older adults need special handling.
“The management of IBD in older adults is challenging for a number of reasons, but primarily because until very recently, we have not invested in understanding how IBD should be optimally managed at older ages,” she said in an interview.
“Additionally, like in all fields, older adults with IBD are disproportionately under-represented in clinical trials, meaning that we have less rigorous data guiding the management of older adults,” she added.