Although there is no cure for Crohn's disease, there are a number of treatment options available.
Drugs are used to suppress the inflammatory response associated with Crohn's disease, which in turn helps the intestines to heal and relieves symptoms. Once symptoms are under control, medications are used to decrease the frequency of flare-ups and prevent symptoms from recurring. There are several types of drugs available to treat Crohn's disease including aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immune modifiers and biologic therapy.
When medications become ineffective or there is a complication, such as an intestinal obstruction or fistula, surgery may be necessary. Typically, surgery will remove the diseased part of the bowel. The two healthy ends of the bowel are then joined together. Although surgery can provide many symptom free years, it is not considered a cure as the disease usually recurs. As surgery is not curative, it aims to remove as little as possible of the diseased part of the bowel.
During this surgical procedure, the surgeon creates a small opening in the abdomen, called a stoma, to which he or she attaches the end of the small intestine, called the ileum. Waste will travel through the small intestine and exit the body through the stoma, which is about the size of a quarter and is usually located in the lower right part of the abdomen near the beltline. A pouch is worn over the opening to collect waste and the patient empties the pouch as needed.
Your doctor may recommend nutritional supplements. A small number of patients may need to be fed intravenously from time to time. This can help those who temporarily need extra nutrition, whose intestines need to rest or whose intestines cannot absorb enough nutrition from food.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.