Treatment Overview

Because Crohn's disease has no permanent cure, the goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation and symptoms, prevent flare-ups, and maintain longer periods of remission.

Doctors use drug therapy, lifestyle changes, surgery, and any combination of these options to help reduce the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

Medication

The most popular initial line of treatment is medication. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicines are often prescribed to stop or slow the painful intestinal spasms associated with Crohn's disease.

Prescription medicines that can help control inflammation and reduce symptoms may also be used. Some medicines can even help heal damaged tissue and prevent ulcers from becoming worse.

If the disease has progressed too far and medicines taken orally or rectally are not able to help, your doctor may require stronger medicines given intravenously, or through a vein. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove diseased portions of the intestine.

Learn more about drugs that treat Crohn’s disease.

Surgery

If other treatment options aren't successful or your doctor thinks you aren't a good candidate for them, he or she may suggest surgery to remove any damaged or diseased portions of the digestive tract. Surgery can also close fistulas and remove scar tissue. As many as 75 percent of patients with Crohn's disease will have surgery at some point for treatment of the disease or its complications.

Like with any other Crohn's disease treatment, surgery is not a cure. It may only provide temporary relief. Also, the disease often recurs; 50 percent of Crohn's patients can expect to have a relapse within four years. More surgery may be needed later.

Surgery for Crohn's patients include:

Partial Removal of Intestine

During this procedure, a surgeon will remove portions of the small intestine and reconnect healthier portions. He or she may also perform strictureplasty—a procedure to widen sections of the intestine that might be narrowed or restricted from inflammation and damage.

Lancing of Abscess

Internal abscesses may be infected and require draining.

Treating Fistulae

Anal fistulae and other internal fistulae may need to be treated to prevent further infection and complications.

Colectomy

If Crohn's disease is primarily affecting your large intestine, your doctor may suggest removing the colon entirely in an operation called a colectomy. During this procedure, the surgeon makes a small opening, called a stoma, in the abdominal wall. The tip of the ileum, which is the end of the small intestine, is brought to the skin's surface through the stoma and the large intestine is removed. Instead of leaving your body through the rectum, waste empties into a pouch connected to the stoma. The pouch is worn on your side and can be emptied.