Management of Crohn’s Disease: Medications

Your doctor may prescribe medication to control your Crohn’s disease symptoms and improve your quality of life. Medication won’t cure Crohn’s disease, but it can help keep the disease from slowing you down. As always, work closely with your doctor. Your medication or dosage may need to be changed if you have certain side effects or if your symptoms change.


Your doctor may advise you to take corticosteroids. These help to calm inflammation in your body. This can make your symptoms better quickly. You may take corticosteroids as a pill, or liquid by mouth. In some cases, they may be given through an IV or given rectally as either a suppository or an enema. You take them for a short time, usually not longer than 8 to 12 weeks. You do not take them when you are in remission. Remission is a long period with no symptoms.

If used for a long time, side effects may include:

  • Mood changes

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Changes in body shape

  • Puffy face or acne

  • Weight gain

  • Stretch marks

  • Eye problems   

  • Bone loss or breaks

  • Facial hair in women

  • High blood pressure

  • Risk of diabetes


These kinds of medications cause your body’s immune system to be less active. This can help to reduce inflammation and calm your symptoms. They are taken as a pill, by mouth. You may not feel their effects until you have taken them for a few months. But you can take them for a long time. You will need to have blood tests every few months to check your liver and blood cell counts.

Side effects may include:

  • Nausea

  • Body aches

  • Inflammation of the pancreas

  • Low white blood cell count

  • Liver problems

  • Low folic acid levels

  • Infection

  • Lymphoma

  • Non-melanoma skin cancer

Biologic agents

These kinds of medications help to stop a chemical that your body makes, which causes inflammation. The chemical is called tumor necrosis factor (TNF). The medications are also known as anti-TNF monoclonal antibodies. The way you take a biologic agent depends on how the drug is given. It may be given through an IV every 2 to 8 weeks. It may be given through an injection (shot) as often as once a week. Or it may be given as a shot once a month. These drugs can put you at risk for infections, so tell your doctor if you have a chronic infection. Your doctor may also test you for tuberculosis and hepatitis B infection before giving you the medication.

Side effects may include:

  • Flushing, chest pain, shortness of breath, hives, or a drop in blood pressure during IV treatment

  • Joint and muscle aches

  • Rash

  • Fever

  • Infection (including reactivation of the tuberculosis and hepatitis B)

  • Lymphoma

  • Skin cancers

  • Hepatotoxity

  • TNF-induced psoriasis


These may be used if you also have an infection due to Crohn’s disease, such as an abscess. Antibiotics may be given as a pill taken by mouth. You should stay out of the sun while taking them. You should also not drink alcohol while taking them. It may cause severe reactions, such as nausea, vomiting, and breathing problems. Also, tell your doctor right away if you have numbness or tingling in your hands. Also tell your doctor if your bowel symptoms become worse.

Side effects may include:

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Dark urine

  • Loss of appetite

  • Metallic taste in the mouth

  • Sensitivity to the sun

Handling side effects

You and your doctor will discuss side effects. In most cases, side effects are easy to manage. But sometimes they can become severe enough that you need to change medication. Call your doctor if you’re having side effects that trouble you. Also call if you’re having any side effects that are unexpected.