There are numerous treatment options that can help ease symptoms in people with Crohn’s disease. Doctors may recommend certain medications, behavioral changes, or types of surgery.
While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, the right treatment can reduce or even eliminate symptoms in people living with the condition.
Doctors consider patients with few or no Crohn’s disease symptoms to be in remission, which is the goal of Crohn’s disease treatment.
This article will discuss different types of treatment a person with Crohn’s disease can consider, including medication, surgery, and dietary options.
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, doctors prescribe drugs for Crohn’s disease with the main goal of reducing inflammation. This then alleviates symptoms of the disease, such as fever, diarrhea, and pain.
However, there are numerous types of medication that target different symptoms of Crohn’s disease. These include:
Aminosalicylates are a group of drugs that can help control inflammation in people with mild Crohn’s disease symptoms or those who have a new diagnosis.
Some examples include:
Doctors may also prescribe sulfasalazine off-label for Crohn’s disease symptoms. Off-label prescribing is when a healthcare professional recommends a drug for a different condition or at a different dosage than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved.
Common side effects include:
Immunomodulators, such as cyclosporine, aim to decrease immune activity to reduce inflammation in the digestive tract. They can help people go into remission.
Doctors may prescribe this type of medication if other treatments have been ineffective.
Immunomodulators can take up to 3 months to work.
A doctor may choose to prescribe methotrexate or azathioprine for off-label treatment of Crohn’s disease.
Side effects may include:
These drugs may also put people at a higher risk of infection.
Biologics target specific inflammatory proteins the immune system makes, which may help lessen symptoms over time.
Some examples of biologics are:
A person may need to go to a clinic or hospital to get an intravenous infusion with these drugs.
The main side effect is a higher risk of serious infections.
Corticosteroids are a group of drugs that can decrease inflammation by reducing immune activity of the body.
Examples of these medications include:
A person taking corticosteroids may experience some side effects, such as:
Certain pain relief medications may help with Crohn’s pain. These include over-the-counter drugs, such as acetaminophen.
A doctor may also recommend prescription pain medication.
Antidiarrheal medication may help prevent diarrhea and the dehydration and malnourishment that diarrhea can cause.
Crohn’s disease can increase the risk of developing certain infections.
To treat or prevent those, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Combination therapy involves using several different drugs at the same time. Many people with Crohn’s disease find that this type of treatment may offer more symptom relief.
It is of note, however, that combination therapy may also increase the risk of side effects.
When a person has severe Crohn’s disease that does not respond to treatment, or when they develop dangerous complications, they may need surgery.
This usually requires several days of hospitalization and a month or longer for recovery.
Some surgical procedures a doctor may recommend include:
- Small bowel resection: During this procedure, surgeons remove a portion of the small intestine after it has become severely damaged, such as from a blockage.
- Subtotal colectomy: This involves removing a portion of the large intestine, usually when there is a fistula or blockage or in people with severe Crohn’s disease.
- Proctocolectomy and ileostomy: These surgeries require removing the entire colon and then placing an ileostomy, a hole through which bowel movements can pass into a bag. Both the ileostomy and the need to have bowel movements outside of the body may be permanent.
Different people will experience different dietary triggers for their symptoms.
Keeping a food diary can help identify any dietary triggers for Crohn’s disease. A person can remove from their diet any foods they feel may be worsening their symptoms and add them back in slowly, noting how they feel as they do so.
Depending on a person’s experience of the disease and their overall health, a doctor may recommend several dietary changes.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, dietary changes may mean a person should:
|carbonated drinks||more liquids|
|lactose||high calorie foods|
|high fiber foods||vitamins|
|fatty foods||nutritional supplements|
|salty foods||smaller, more frequent meals|
A person should always discuss with their doctor any dietary changes they wish to make.
However, research has not proven that such remedies work alone. It is therefore safest to use them along with standard treatments.
Examples of complementary options are:
- Mind-body therapies: These may include massage, yoga, or acupuncture.
- Curcumin: A person can incorporate into their diet supplements, such as curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric. However, a person should not ingest curcumin in large doses. Using it in moderate amounts in cooking is generally safe.
- Herbal remedies: Using aloe vera and boswellia
may help easeCrohn’s disease symptoms.
- Fish oils: A person may wish to take fish oils, such as cod liver oil, to reduce symptoms.
- Fecal microbiota transplant: This treatment involves transplanting feces from a person without Crohn’s disease into a person with the condition in order to improve their gut bacteria.
Small studies suggest medical cannabis may help with nausea and diarrhea, improve appetite, and ease pain.
However, it does not work for everyone, and its status can subject a person to legal risks, including jail.
According to a
The findings of the analysis suggest cannabis may help some people, but more research is necessary to confirm this claim.
There is no single treatment for Crohn’s disease that is safe for everyone.
A drug that induces no side effects in one person may produce severe ones in someone else.
Treating Crohn’s disease safely
It is advisable to keep track of any side effects when trying new treatments. It is also important to tell a doctor about any prior drug reactions or serious adverse effects.
A person may worry about a certain group of undesirable reactions, such as mood swings or a weakened immune system. They should share this with a doctor, since different drugs have different side effect profiles.
For people concerned about side effects who experience mild or moderate symptoms, keeping a symptom log and making some habitual changes may be the first line of defense.
There is no single test for Crohn’s disease.
Instead, a doctor may order additional testing to look for Crohn’s-related intestinal damage and rule out other potential causes of symptoms.
Some tests a doctor may recommend include:
- blood tests
- endoscopy, which uses a small tube to look at the intestines
- imaging scans, such as X-rays and MRI scans
- colon biopsy, during which surgeons remove a sample of the colon tissue for examination
Some tests are invasive, and so people will usually receive pain medicine. In some cases, they may even receive a sedative for the duration of the test.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition with no known cure.
It is treatable with the right medication. However, medication may cease to be effective, or it may cause serious side effects.
As a result, some people will need to manage Crohn’s symptoms and take medication for the rest of their lives.
People with Crohn’s disease and other IBDs live about as long as others, although their life expectancy can be slightly shorter.
The life expectancy of people with this disease has increased since the 1990s.
Crohn’s disease can be a scary diagnosis, especially for people who find it difficult to imagine experiencing symptoms for the rest of their lives.
However, the right diagnosis can offer people a path to feeling better, as there are numerous treatments that can ease Crohn’s symptoms, including medications, behavioral changes, and surgery.
A person should seek guidance from a doctor to find the most suitable treatment.