Crohn's Disease - Treatment

Treatment for Crohn's disease focuses on four major objectives:

  • Reduction of inflammation of the intestine
  • Dealing with the patient's nutritional problems
  • Relieving the uncomfortable symptoms of abdominal pain and diarrhea
  • Treating possible complications, such as obstructions, abscesses, and fistulas

Inflammation is usually treated with a drug called sulfasalazine (pronounced SULL-fuh-SAL-uh-zeen). Sulfasalazine consists of two parts. One part is an antibiotic and the other part an anti-inflammatory agent. For patients who do not respond to sulfasalazine, steroids may be used. Steroids are very effective in reducing inflammation. However, they have some undesirable side effects.

Nutritional supplements are used to treat malnutrition. The supplements are chosen because they are easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Patients may also need to learn which foods they cannot digest (such as milk or spicy foods) and avoid eating those foods. In severe cases, a patient may need to be fed intravenously. Intravenous feeding involves the insertion of a tube into a vein. Nutrients are then given to the patient through the tube.

A number of medications are available to reduce pain and cramping. High-fiber medications may also be helpful.

Complications such as obstructions, abscesses, and fistulas are sometimes treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the bacteria that produce these complications. If antibiotics are unsuccessful, surgery may be necessary. The purpose of surgery is to remove an obstruction or abscess or to repair a fistula. In the most severe cases, a portion of the intestine may have to be removed.

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