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7 Reasons Why Your Crohn's Treatment Isn't Working


Susan Fishman

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This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.


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Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory condition affecting your gastrointestinal tract—with an emphasis on chronic. Crohn’s can be a hard condition to treat, and even if you do find something that works, it might not last as long as you’d like. Watch out for these signs that your treatment is not doing the trick. A trip to the doctor might be the right next step.

1. Your symptoms never fully went away the first time.

If you’re still experiencing some of the following common signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease, your treatment may need a tweak, or you may need a new approach altogether. Talk to your gastroenterologist if any of these symptoms are a problem for you:

  • Diarrhea

  • Cramping and pain

  • Swelling of the abdomen

  • Constipation

  • Weight loss

  • Feeling tired

  • Nausea or loss of appetite

  • Fever

  • Anemia (fewer red blood cells than normal)

Robyn discusses raising a family and staying positive with Crohn's disease.

2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Other less common symptoms include:

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Night sweats

  • Loss of menstrual cycle

    • Joint pain or soreness

    • Eye irritation

    • Skin changes (typically red, tender bumps under the skin)

2. Your diet isn’t cutting it.

Things like diet and stress don’t cause Crohn’s, but they can aggravate your symptoms. Good nutrition is especially important in managing your condition. Your doctor may suggest that you try to:

  • Avoid carbonated drinks

  • Avoid high-fiber foods, such as beans, nuts and certain vegetables

  • Drink more liquids

  • Eat smaller meals more often

  • Keep a food diary to help identify problems

If you’ve tried changing your diet, and your symptoms haven’t improved, it may be time to re-visit your treatment plan with your doctor. He or she may also recommend nutritional supplements and vitamins if you’re not getting enough nutrients through your diet.

3. You’re still smoking.

It’s possible that, if you haven’t quit smoking, your Crohn’s disease is still active and you’re still experiencing symptoms. If you’ve had surgery for Crohn’s and continue to smoke, the illness will recur sooner and possibly more severely. Although there are conflicting studies on the effect of smoking in Crohn’s, seriously consider cutting the habit for your overall health.

4. You need a combination approach.

Sometimes a combination of medicines works better than just one drug alone. Corticosteroids (steroid medication) are often used short-term to reduce inflammation and help with Crohn’s symptoms and remission. Your doctor may also prescribe an accompanying immunosuppressant (immune system suppressor) to help you maintain remission.

If you have severe Crohn’s disease, your doctor may also prescribe biological therapies, a type of powerful immunosuppressant (created using naturally-occurring substances).

With these medications, there could be some side effects, such as fatigue, nausea and weight gain, as well as allergic reactions or increased risk of infections. Be sure to talk to your doctor about all the risks involved in any treatment.

5. You’ve been using the same medication for too long.

There is a chance your medication has lost its effectiveness if you’ve been taking it for a while. If your medication initially alleviated symptoms, but now they seem to be coming back or getting worse, talk to your doctor. Remember to stay in touch with your doctor—he or she needs to monitor your medication for effectiveness over time. It’s also important for you to keep track of side effects. Finding the right medication may take a few tries, so it may be helpful to keep a log of symptoms and side effects as you begin a new medication or notice yours might not be working as well.

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Medical Reviewers: Benjamin Chacko, MD Last Review Date: Sep 1, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Maintenance Therapy. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  2. What is Crohn’s Disease? Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
  3. Crohn’s Disease – Treatment. NHS Choices.
  4. Crohn’s Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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