Crohn’s Disease, a condition that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, can often be disruptive to daily life. While there is no current cure for Crohn’s Disease, there are several drugs and medications doctors may use to treat the condition.
Comprised of aminosalicylic acid, aminosalicytes are generally recommended by doctors for more mild cases of Crohn’s disease. Sometimes they’re effective at eradicating symptoms, especially in those patients who have recently gone through surgery.
Aminosalicylates are anti-inflammatory medications. Side effects may include nausea, headache, and decreased white blood cell and sperm count.
Corticosteroids are a type of steroid made up of both chemically synthesized hormones and steroids naturally produced in the adrenal cortex. Used to treat moderate to severe cases, corticosteroids are usually not the first line of treatment but are instead prescribed when other treatments have failed to ease symptoms.
Side effects of these anti-inflammatory drugs include glaucoma, swelling in lower legs, and an increase in blood pressure, among others. Corticosteroids can be very effective in putting a Crohn’s disease patient in remission. However, they’re generally not recommended as long-term treatments.
Antibiotics are used to treat a wide variety of diseases these days. For Crohn’s disease, antibiotics can help reduce inflammation and bacteria sometimes found in the lining of the intestines.
It’s important to note that many Crohn’s patients who try antiobiotic treatment don’t see a reduction in symptoms, but the reduction in bacteria in Crohn’s patients could be a side benefit to taking antibiotics. The good news is, antibiotics have minimal side effects for many patients.
Remicade is infliximab, a treatment for Crohn’s disease that was FDA-approved in 1998. Also used for more severe cases, Remicade is usually recommended for patients who have tried other treatments with no success. During a year-long trial, Remicade was found to help patients gain control over symptoms and maintain that control over time.
Side effects include a decreased ability to fight infections and unusual cancers in children taking the medication. Other side effects apply, so make sure to discuss them with your doctor before beginning treatment.
Immune modifiers are often prescribed to help heal fistulas, which are tunnels that form between sections of the intestine, often near the patient’s anus. In general, immune modifiers block the immune reaction that leads to infection in a patient. They can also help reduce your dose of corticosteroids.
The most recently approved treatment of Crohn’s disease, certolizumab pegol combines antibodies with polyethelene glycol. In tests, it was found to reduce symptoms but not increase rates of remission. Certolizumab pegol is for moderate to severe patients who have already ruled out other methods.
Adalimumab blocks TNF, which is a molecule the white blood cells secrete that increases inflammation. Not only can it reduce symptoms, it can also send a patient into remission. However, risks with this medication are high, with possible side effects including tuberculosis and severe infections. While these are the extremes, your physician can help you determine if this is a safe medication for you, based on your health history.
While Crohn’s disease is certainly not curable by diet alone, your doctor may recommend infusing various nutrients directly into your veins to maintain nutrition. The theory is that by giving the bowels time to recover and rest, symptoms may abate slightly. The problem is, infusions can only be a short-term solution and once you begin eating normally again, you may find that your symptoms return.
Your physician may choose to alter your diet in order to control your stools. A low-fiber diet may be prescribed if you’re having trouble with blockages. By ingesting lower amounts of fiber, you have a lower risk of a blockage in that area.
Your doctor may recommend B-12 shots to prevent anemia, because B-12 is absorbed directly into the small intestine, the area most affected by Crohn’s disease. Some Crohn’s patients must take B-12 shots regularly for the rest of their lives.
While there is no known cure for Crohn's disease, managing symptoms and going into remission are definitely possible. Work with your doctor to find the medication that works best for your needs.