Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. For people with Crohn’s, antibiotics may help lower the amount and change the composition of bacteria in the intestines, which may relieve symptoms.

Antibiotics also work to control infections. They may aid in healing abscesses and fistulas.

Abscesses are small pockets of infection, and they can contain fluid, dead tissue, and bacteria. Fistulas are unusual connections between your intestines and other body parts, or between two loops of your intestines. Abscesses and fistulas occur when your bowels are inflamed or injured.

Fistulas and abscesses occur in about one-third of people with Crohn’s disease. Abscesses often need to be drained, or surgery may sometimes be suggested.

Several antibiotic medications can be useful in Crohn’s disease, both to treat the disease itself and its complications. They include:

Used alone or in combination with ciprofloxacin, metronidazole (Flagyl) is commonly used to treat complications such as abscesses and fistulas. It may also help reduce disease activity and prevent recurrence.

Side effects of metronidazole may include numbness and tingling in your extremities, and muscle pain or weakness.

It’s important to be aware that drinking alcohol while taking metronidazole may also cause side effects. Nausea and vomiting may occur, as well as an irregular heartbeat in rare instances. Make sure to contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Ciprofloxacin (Cipro) is also prescribed to fight infection in people with Crohn’s. Consistent levels of medication in the bloodstream need to be maintained at all times, so it’s important not to miss doses.

Tendon rupture can be a side effect, although this is rare. Other possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Rifaximin (Xifaxan) has been used for years to treat diarrhea. However, it has recently emerged as a promising treatment for Crohn’s.

Possible side effects may include:

  • skin rash or hives
  • bloody urine or diarrhea
  • fever

Rifaximin may also be costly, so it’s important to ensure your insurance covers it before picking up your prescription.

Ampicillin is another medication that may help reduce Crohn’s symptoms. This drug is in the same family as penicillin and usually takes effect within 24 to 48 hours.

Side effects may include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • rashes
  • inflammation and redness of the tongue

Tetracycline is prescribed for a variety of infections. It also inhibits bacteria growth.

Possible side effects of tetracycline include:

Antibiotics may help control your symptoms, but they may not affect the progression of Crohn’s disease. In some cases, people stop taking antibiotics when they feel the side effects of the medication may be more severe than Crohn’s symptoms.

Remember, everyone responds to treatment differently. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor to find out if antibiotics may be effective for you.