Corticosteroids for Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Some of these medicines may be taken as pills. If the disease affects only the lower part of the colon, corticosteroids can be given by enema. For disease that only affects the rectum, suppositories and topical creams can be used. In severe cases, some corticosteroids are given through a needle in a vein (IV).
How It Works
These medicines reduce inflammation.
Why It Is Used
How Well It Works
Corticosteroids improve or stop the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. These medicines are used to put the disease in remission (a period without symptoms). They are not used long term. When the disease has gone into remission, your doctor will gradually reduce the strength and the amount of corticosteroid you are taking.
Only people who do not get better with other medicines—less than half of people with IBD—need to take corticosteroids. Of these people, many go into remission after taking corticosteroids.1, 2 Some people with IBD may need to keep taking a small dose of corticosteroids to help keep them in remission.
Steroid enemas may be especially helpful for inflammation in the lower colon and the rectum.
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Corticosteroids can keep your immune system from fighting infection. When you are taking this medicine (and even when you have finished taking it), try not to be around people who are sick. And make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations.
People who take corticosteroids for more than 2 to 3 months should take calcium and vitamin D supplements or other medicines, such as bisphosphonates, to prevent osteoporosis. For more information, see the Medications section of the topic Osteoporosis. Your doctor may want you to have a bone density test to check for osteoporosis.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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