Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is targeted at reducing inflammation, relieving symptoms such as pain and diarrhea, controlling and healing damage where possible, identifying and addressing complications, and supplementing any nutritional shortages. The needs of someone with IBD will vary and frequently change over time.
People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease need to be regularly monitored and should work with their healthcare practitioners to become educated about their condition. While lifestyle changes, such as diet modification, rest, and stress reduction, may help improve a person's quality of life and extend a remission, they cannot prevent an IBD flare-up.
Acute symptoms are treated with a variety of medications. These drugs are effective, but many can only be given for short periods of time because of their side effects. Current therapies include the use of corticosteroids, anti-inflammatories, immunosuppressant drugs, biologic therapies (drugs that target body chemicals that cause tissue damage, such as tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha]), and probiotics (so-called "good" bacteria that may improve the balance of bacteria in the digestive system).
One or more surgeries may eventually be necessary to remove damaged tissue, to treat fistulas, and to relieve obstructions. In a person who has had UC for some time, surgery to remove all or part of the colon (colectomy) may be done to prevent colon cancer, if there are abnormalities seen on a biopsy.