How is Crohn’s disease managed or treated?
Treatment for Crohn’s disease varies depending on what’s causing your symptoms and how severe they are for you. In children, the goal in treatment is to induce remission (the time between symptom flare-ups), maintain remission and manage any complications of Crohn’s disease over time.
Your healthcare provider may recommend one or more of these treatments for Crohn's disease:
- Antibiotics: Antibiotics can prevent or treat infections. Severe infections can lead to abscesses (pockets of pus). Or they can cause fistulas (openings or tunnels that connect two organs that don’t normally connect).
- Antidiarrheal medication: Prescription medications like loperamide (Imodium A-D®) can stop severe diarrhea.
- Biologics: These medications include monoclonal antibodies to suppress the immune response.
- Bowel rest: To give your intestines a chance to heal, your provider may recommend going without food or drink for several days or longer. To get the nutrition you need, you may receive intravenous (parenteral) nutrition. Only drink a prescribed liquid or have a feeding tube during this time.
- Corticosteroids: Cortisone, prednisone and other corticosteroids ease inflammation brought on by autoimmune disease.
- Immunomodulators: These drugs calm inflammation by suppressing an overactive immune system. They include azathioprine and cyclosporine.
- Surgery: Surgery won’t cure Crohn’s disease, but it can treat complications. You may need surgery to correct intestinal perforations (holes), blockages or bleeding.
What are the complications of Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease can lead to serious complications, including:
- Abscesses: Infected pus-filled pockets form in the digestive tract or abdomen.
- Anal fissures: Small tears in the anus (anal fissures) can cause pain, itching and bleeding.
- Bowel obstructions: Scar tissue from inflammation, fistulas or a narrowed intestine can block the bowel partially or completely. Waste matter and gases build up. A blockage in the small bowel or large bowel requires surgery.
- Colon cancer: Crohn’s disease in the large intestine increases the risk of colon cancer.
- Fistulas: IBD can cause abnormal tunnel-like openings, called fistulas, to form in the intestinal walls. These fistulas sometimes become infected.
- Malnutrition: Chronic diarrhea can make it hard for your body to absorb nutrients. One common problem in people with Crohn’s disease is a lack of iron. Too little iron can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count) when your organs can’t get enough oxygen.
- Ulcers: Open sores called ulcers can form in your mouth, stomach or rectum.
How does Crohn’s disease affect pregnancy?
Women with Crohn’s disease can, and usually do, have normal pregnancies. Your healthcare provider may recommend trying to conceive while the disease is in remission. Flare-ups during pregnancy may increase the risk of:
- Miscarriage (loss of pregnancy before the baby fully develops).
- Premature labor (childbirth before the 37th week of pregnancy).
- Low birth weight (newborn weight of less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces).