What is Crohn's disease?
Crohn's disease is a chronic (long-term) inflammation of the digestive tract. The inflammation causes uncomfortable and bothersome symptoms and may seriously damage the digestive tract.
What causes Crohn's disease?
The cause of Crohn's disease is unknown. Genetic, infectious, environmental, and immune system causes have all been investigated, but a single cause has not been identified.
What are the risks of Crohn's disease?
Crohn's disease has no known cure. Fistulas (abnormal connections with other organs) and abscesses (pockets of swollen or dead tissue that may become infected) commonly form, and surgery is sometimes necessary to remove the diseased bowel, drain abscesses, and repair fistulas.
How is Crohn's disease treated?
Treatment is focused on reducing the inflammation, thereby relieving symptoms and preventing complications. The mainstay of treatment is the use of drugs to decrease inflammation.
Good nutrition is essential because nutrient absorption may be impaired. Antibiotics may be needed after surgery or if infection occurs.
- This class of drugs includes
mesalamine (Asacol, Pentasa, Apriso, Lialda, Canasa, Rowasa),
olsalazine (Dipentum), and
sulfasalazine (Azulfidine, EN-Tabs).
- Mesalamine is generally better tolerated than sulfasalazine. The newer aspirin-like anti-inflammatory agents are unique, because they release the active drug in specific areas of the small or
large intestine, thus allowing doctors to choose a drug based on the site of inflammation.
- How aspirin-like anti-inflammatory agents work: These drugs are used in people with mild disease. Like aspirin, aspirin like anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation and pain by inhibiting a variety of immune reactions in the body.
- Who should not use these medications: Individuals who have
peptic ulcer disease,
severe renal failure, or
allergy to aspirin or aspirin like products should not take aspirin like anti-inflammatories. Those with
allergy to sulfa drugs should not take sulfasalazine.
- Use: These drugs may be administered orally or by rectal enemas or suppositories.
- Drug or food interactions: Aspirin like anti-inflammatory agents may increase the risk of
bleeding when administered with other drugs that alter blood coagulation, such as
- Side effects: Aspirin like anti-inflammatories may be toxic to blood cells and may cause
vomiting, abdominal cramping, and/or
Reviewed on 5/26/2016
Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD, =American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care
Farrell, Richard, J. MD. "Overview of the medical management of mild to moderate Crohn's disease in adults." UpToDate. Updated Mar 17, 2015.