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Surgery

If drugs stop easing your symptoms or if your Crohn's causes other health problems, your doctor may advise surgery. It can be the best option to relieve your symptoms long-term.

"Sixty to 80% of people with Crohn's will need at least one surgery," Loftus says. "Half of those people will need a second surgery."

Surgery may be used to remove part of your intestine, rectum, or colon or to treat other problems. Your doctor will aim to relieve your symptoms and still preserve as much of your intestine as he can.

Surgery does not cure Crohn's.  About half the people who have surgery do have Crohn’s symptoms again in about 5 years. But for others, surgery can relieve symptoms for much longer. Taking some Crohn's drugs after surgery can lower the chance that it will return. And if it does, drugs can often treat it.

Drugs to Stay Flare-Free

Once your symptoms have stopped, taking Crohn's drugs can help keep them away -- hopefully, for a long time. Antibiotics, 5-ASA drugs, immunomodulators, and biologics are all used for this.

It is much easier to stay symptom-free than it is to get Crohn's under control in the first place. Try these tips:

  • Take drugs as prescribed. Don't take less or skip doses. If cost is a problem, your doctor can refer you to programs that offer free or low-cost prescription drugs.
  • If you smoke, stop. It makes Crohn's more active.
  • Avoid aspirin and pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), which can trigger flares.
  • Don't take any drug, nutritional supplement, or natural aid before talking with your doctor. You want to make sure nothing interacts with your treatment plan, which could put you at risk for a Crohn’s flare.

Communication: Key to Your Treatment

To help ensure that your treatment works effectively, it's very important to take all medications as directed by your doctor. You should never stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor, as that could cause symptoms to return.

Because some drugs may cause serious side effects, your doctor may monitor you as you undergo treatment. So be sure you go to all follow-up doctor appointments and have all recommended laboratory tests.

If you have any questions about your treatment options or concerns about side effects, be sure to discuss these with your doctor.