Inhaled corticosteroids aren’t a common treatment option for Crohn’s disease. They may be used if you’re having respiratory problems associated with Crohn’s. Inhalants can help reduce inflammation and open up your airways.

Crohn’s disease (CD) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation that can affect any part of the digestive tract.

Corticosteroids are medications sometimes used to reduce inflammation in CD. While these drugs are typically given orally as tablets or capsules, inhaled corticosteroids may be used when CD is causing respiratory problems.

Learn more about how inhalants work for CD, their effectiveness, and the side effects to be aware of.

Man using an inhaler.Share on Pinterest
Getty Images/MixMedia

Inhaled steroids may be used for people with CD that also have respiratory issues. These medications are typically packaged in an inhaler. Examples of inhaled steroids include:

The goal of inhaled steroids is to reduce the inflammation in your airways, making it easier to breathe.

There are many different reasons why a person with CD may need inhaled steroids. This includes:

Extraintestinal manifestations

IBD can cause symptoms outside of the digestive tract, known as extraintestinal manifestations (EIMs). EIMs occur in up to 50% of people with IBD and may be more common in people with CD.

While respiratory EIMs are less common in IBD, they can lead to inflammation in the airways or lungs and make breathing difficult. Examples of respiratory EIMs are:

Chronic lung conditions

Additionally, people with IBD more often have other chronic health conditions, including lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inhaled steroids are used to treat these conditions.

Crohn’s disease of the esophagus or stomach

CD can cause inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. An older 2010 case study reported using inhaled steroids to help treat CD in the upper part of the digestive tract, specifically the esophagus.

Lung issues related to CD can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

Inhaled steroids reduce inflammation in the airways. This works to open your airways, helping you to breathe easier.

Several case studies have reported some improvement in symptoms after using inhaled steroids to treat lung problems related to CD, including:

A 2014 research review notes that, generally, inhaled steroids appear to be more effective and are tolerated better than oral steroids in treating respiratory issues related to IBD.

However, the same review does note that inhaled steroids may be less effective when the airways are full of respiratory secretions or when small airways are impacted.

There are several potential side effects associated with inhaled steroids. These include:

Side effects tend to be more common with high dose inhaled steroids than with those at a lower dose.

There are other, more common treatments for CD. Since there’s currently no cure for CD, the goals of treatment are to:

Several different types of medications may be used to manage CD. Which medication is recommended can depend on how severe your CD is. Examples of CD medications include

Surgery is also an aspect of CD treatment. A doctor may recommend that you have surgery if you have CD complications like a fistula or an intestinal blockage.

Speaking with a dietitian can also help to ensure that you receive appropriate nutrition. They may recommend dietary changes, such as avoiding foods that worsen your symptoms.

If you have CD, there are some situations where it may be beneficial to seek medical support.

One of these is if you notice that your medications aren’t effectively managing your symptoms. In this case, it’s possible that a doctor may need to adjust your CD treatment plan.

Another example of when to seek medical care is if you are experiencing a flare-up. This can include new, worsening, or severe symptoms, such as:

Can budesonide help with Crohn’s?

Budesonide can help with Crohn’s symptoms. It works by decreasing inflammation in the digestive tract.

What is the strongest medication for Crohn’s disease?

Corticosteroids and biologics are both regarded as the strongest medications for treating Crohn’s disease.

What is the life expectancy of someone with Crohn’s disease?

Research suggests that the life expectancy of someone with Crohn’s disease can be 5 to 8 years shorter than those without the condition. However, many treatment options can help manage the condition and allow you to remain in remission.

Inhaled steroids aren’t a common treatment for CD. However, they may be used to reduce inflammation and improve breathing if you’re having respiratory issues that are associated with CD.

Some EIMs of CD can affect the airways, leading to inflammation. Additionally, people with CD often have chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD. In these situations, inhaled steroids may be beneficial.

Some of the common side effects of inhaled steroids include sore throat, hoarse voice, and oral thrush. Side effects are more common when inhaled steroids are used at higher doses.