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Treatments for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

At the moment there is no cure for Crohn’s diseases or colitis. Fortunately there are many medical and surgical treatments available to help minimise the impact of these diseases.

Medications

Crohn’s disease and colitis are diseases with periods of ‘relapse’ when the inflammation in the bowel flares up and periods of ‘remission’ when the inflammation dies down again. The aim of treatment is to treat relapses when they occur, and give the bowel a chance to heal. Medications are also used to help maintain remission, improve general well-being and prevent complications from developing.

Medications commonly used to control inflammation in Crohn’s disease and colitis include:

  • aminosalicylates (5-ASA)
  • corticosteroids
  • immunomodulators (azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine and methotrexate)
  • biological therapies (infliximab and adalimumab)
  • antibiotics (metronidazole, ampicillin, ciprofloxin, and others).

Surgery in colitis

If colitis is very severe and does not respond to medication your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the colon. A ‘pouch’ is then created inside the body using the end of the small intestine, and this pouch is connected directly to the anus (back passage). Another option is to create a temporary or permanent opening (stoma) on the outside of the abdomen and connect the end of the small intestine to a bag. This surgery eliminates the symptoms of colitis so medications are no longer required.

Surgery in Crohn’s disease

Surgery can be used in Crohn’s disease to remove or to widen sections of the bowel that are badly affected by disease. The healthy ends of the bowel are usually rejoined to each other. Sometimes a temporary stoma is required if disease is very severe.

Sources: Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia and New Zealand (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis), Crohn’s and Colitis Australia (What is ulcerative colitis?), Gastroenterological Society of Australia (Publication - GESA, DHF. Information about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (2011)), Digestive Health Foundation (Publication - Andrews JM, Sinclair M. Australian Guidelines for General Practitioners and Physicians. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Third Edition, 2013.)
 

Last reviewed: September 2015

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