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Crohn’s Disease Treatment: Common Medications for Treating Crohn’s

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How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?

A number of tests are used to distinguish Crohn's disease from other gastrointestinal conditions. First, your doctor will review your medical history. This information is helpful because Crohn's disease is more common in people who have a first-degree relative -- mother, father, sister, or brother -- with IBD. After a physical examination is done, the doctor may order the following tests:

  • Endoscopy (such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy): During this procedure, a flexible, lighted tube called an endoscope is inserted into the rectum and used to view the inside of the rectum and colon. A colonoscopy shows a greater portion of the colon than a sigmoidoscopy does. A small sample of tissue may be taken for testing -- biopsy.
  • Blood tests: When testing the blood, the doctor will look for signs of anemia or a high white blood cell count that could indicate inflammation or infection somewhere in the body.
  • Barium X-ray (barium enema or small bowel series): X-rays are often taken of either the upper or lower intestine. Barium coats the lining of the small intestine and colon and shows up white on an X-ray. This characteristic enables doctors to view any abnormalities.

How is Crohn's disease treated?

There is no cure for Crohn's disease. The goals for treatment are:

  • to reduce inflammation
  • to relieve symptoms of pain, diarrhea, and bleeding
  • to eliminate nutritional deficiencies

Treatment might involve drugs, nutritional supplements, surgery, or a combination of these therapies. Treatment choices depend upon where the disease is located and how severe it is. They also depend on the complications associated with the disease and the way the person has responded in the past to treatment when symptoms recurred.

What kinds of drugs are used to treat Crohn's disease?

There are several types of drugs used to treat Crohn's disease. The first step usually involves reducing inflammation. Many people are first treated with sulfasalazine (Azulfidine). This drug is the most common of those that contain mesalamine. Mesalamine is also known as 5-aminosalicylic acid, or 5-ASA. Possible side effects of sulfasalazine and other mesalamine-containing drugs may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • heartburn
  • headache
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