The primary goal of treatment for IBD is to achieve and maintain remission. Learn more about the types of medications and surgeries below.
Medications can help suppress the immune system’s abnormal inflammatory response in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
Medications can help suppress the immune system’s abnormal inflammatory response in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are five main categories of medications used to treat IBD and here’s how they work:
Aminosalicylates are compounds that reduce inflammation in the lining of the intestine.
Corticosteroids affect the body’s ability to create and sustain an inflammatory response.
Immunomodulators work to suppress your immune response which decreases inflammation.
Antibiotics may be used to treat infections related to IBD or used post-surgery to prevent infection.
Biologics are genetically engineered medications made from living organisms. They work to interfere with the body’s inflammatory response by targeting specific proteins associated with IBD.
For questions and to learn more about each medication class, speak with your healthcare provider.
Even with effective medication and proper dietary changes, surgery may be necessary for some patients.
Surgery is not a cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can save parts of your GI tract and may help improve quality of life.
As many as 75% of people with Crohn’s disease will require surgery at some point in their lives.1 Surgeries for Crohn’s disease include:
- Removing the damaged portion of your small or large intestine and connecting the two healthy ends (small bowel resection).
- Removing the colon and rectum, resulting in the creation of an ostomy to collect waste (proctocolectomy with end ileostomy).
- Shortening and widening the intestines to reduce the effects of scarring (strictureplasty).
Up to a third of people living with ulcerative colitis may require surgery.1 There are two common surgical approaches used for ulcerative colitis, and depending on factors such as age and extent of the disease, one approach may be recommended over the other.
Surgeries for ulcerative colitis include:
- Removing the entire colon and rectum with an ileostomy or external stoma (an opening in the abdomen where waste is emptied into a pouch).
- Creating an internal pouch from the small bowel and attaching it to the anal sphincter muscle, enabling preservation of bowel integrity and eliminating the need for the patient to wear an external ostomy appliance (proctocolectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis [IPAA]).
The goal of any treatment or surgery is to achieve remission (little to no symptoms) and maintain remission (prevent symptoms or flare-ups).
With medical and/or surgical treatment, Crohn’s disease patients can achieve and maintain remission2:
- About 50% of patients will be in remission or have mild disease over the next five years
- 45% of those in remission will remain relapse-free over the next year
- 35% will have one or two relapses
- 11% will have chronically active disease
With medical and/or surgical treatment, ulcerative colitis patients can achieve and maintain remission. In a given year2:
- 48% of people with ulcerative colitis are in remission
- 30% have mild disease activity
- 20% have moderate disease activity
- 1% to 2% have severe disease
Diet and nutrition are an important part of managing IBD and may differ patient to patient.
While Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are not caused by diet and nutrition, diet and nutrition are key, as IBD may differ from patient to patient.
Talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about any recommended dietary changes.
1 Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. Surgery for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. n.d.
2 Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 2014.