Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for a variety of ailments. For Crohn’s sufferers, antibiotics can help lower the level of bacteria in the intestines, which can lessen the severity of symptoms. While there is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, for some patients remission can provide years of symptom-free living, with treatments like antibiotics providing the catalyst for that remission.
Not only can antibiotics help control infections, they may also aid in healing abscesses and fistulas, which connect loops of intestine to each other or connect the intestine to the bladder. Fistulas and abscesses occur in about one-fourth of all Crohn's disease patients, with abscesses requiring drainage by medical personnel. Sometimes surgery is required to treat abscesses and fistulas. When surgery is required, about half of all surgical patients experience a recurrence within five years. These surgical procedures are called resections.
Below are a few possible antibiotic medications for Crohn’s disease.
Often sold under the brand name Flagyl, metronidazole can help battle anaerobic bacteria in the intestines. By destroying anaerobic bacteria, you can help reduce your body’s risk of infection and inflammation. Infection and inflammation are what generally accompany Crohn’s disease symptoms. By controlling both infection and inflammation, a Crohn’s patient can live with less pain and fewer symptoms.
Side effects of metronidazole can include numbness and tingling in extremities and muscle pain or weakness. Patients on metronidazole will be encouraged to contact their doctor if any of these symptoms occur.
Sold under the brand name Cipro, ciprofloxacin is threatening to push metronidazole out of first place as the antibiotic of choice for Crohn’s patients. Ciprofloxacin doesn’t work for everyone as each Crohn’s patient is different, but, just like other antibiotics, it works to fight infection in patients. For ciprofloxacin to be effective, it must remain in the bloodstream at all times, so it is important to take it every twelve hours without missing a dose.
Tendon rupture is listed as a side effect, although this is rare. Other rare side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. ?Ciprofloxacin is actually considered safer than metronidazole.
Sold under the brand name Xifaxin, rifaximin has been used for years to treat traveler’s diarrhea. In a trial of the drug, 78 percent of participants experienced an improvement in their Crohn’s symptoms, with 59 percent going into remission. Unfortunately, studies showed that the relief was only temporary, with those taking rifaximin only experiencing a relief in symptoms while taking it. Even some who continued to take it found their relief was only temporary.
Rifaximin can also be quite expensive, so check to make sure your insurance covers it before picking up your prescription. Unlike other antibiotics, Rifaximin is poorly absorbed and heads straight for the intestines, starting to work immediately.
Part of the family of medicines that includes penicillin, ampicillin can help reduce symptoms within 24 to 48 hours. Like other antibiotics, ampicillin must be taken for the entire prescribed course of treatment to be effective in fighting bacteria. Side effects can include diarrhea, nausea, and rashes, as well as an inflammation and redness of the tongue.
Sold as Gantanol, sulfonamide works to help prevent growth of bacteria. Since sulfa allergies are common, patients should be in close contact with their doctor’s office while beginning treatment. If you are allergic, symptoms such as rash, itching, and difficulty breathing could present themselves while you’re taking sulfonamide. Of the more severe side effects, Stevens-Johnson syndrome (a potentially fatal skin rash), blood disorders, and liver damage are rare but possible.
Prescribed for a variety of infections, tetracycline also functions as an inhibitor to bacteria growth. Tetracycline can cause mouth sores, nausea, and changes in skin color, among other side effects.
What to Take Into Consideration
While antibiotics help to control the symptoms of Crohn's disease, they may not slow the progression of the disease. Often, side effects from antibiotics are responsible for their failure, with some patients deciding the remedy is more debilitating than the original problem.
?Doctors have found that for long-term treatment, Rifaximin appears to be the best antiobiotic for patients. Rifaximin has a high safety profile and appears to be effective in lengthening remissions of the disease.