Even though Crohn’s medication reduces inflammation and abdominal pain, many people still require medication to control diarrhea and cramping. Medications for treatment of chronic diarrhea come in both prescription and over-the-counter varieties, either as tablets or rectal suppositories.
Chronic diarrhea carries with it the possibility of dehydration. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids and electrolyte replenishment. If you live with the chronic diarrhea, recognizing the signs of dehydration is vital:
- dry skin
- dark, concentrated urine
- infrequent urination.
Children are especially susceptible to dehydration caused by chronic diarrhea. In addition to the above symptoms, children may complain of dry mouth or fever. Eyes, cheeks and abdomens may appear sunken, and the child may be irritable or restless. If a child with Crohn’s has diarrhea, consult a doctor immediately for treatment.
Adults should see a doctor if diarrhea lasts more than three days (or less if you have a history of chronic diarrhea). Severe rectal or abdominal pain, high fevers, bloody or tarry stools, or signs of dehydration should be reported.
Common Anti-Diarrhea Medications
Many medications treat diarrhea. The following three are among the more common. Codeine and diphenoxylate are available only through prescription, while loperamide is available both by prescription and over-the-counter.
Loperamide: Better known as ImodiumÂ® , loperimide is generally taken after each attack of diarrhea. It may be taken on a schedule throughout the day if used in treatment of chronic diarrhea.
Drink plenty of fluids while taking loperimide.
Side effects may include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, skin problems, and nausea or vomiting. Seek medical attention if you develop a high fever or have bloody stools while taking loperamide.
Codeine: A narcotic codeine is habit forming over time. After long-term use, codeine should be reduced slowly; stopping suddenly causes withdrawal effects. In addition to providing pain relief, codeine helps control chronic diarrhea by slowing the contractions of the intestinal muscles.
Inform your doctor of any history of alcohol or drug dependence, emotional problems, brain disease, under-active thyroid, asthma, lung disease, heart problems, or lung or kidney disease before taking codeine. If you are or plan to become pregnant, let your doctor know. Tell your doctor of any allergies you have, and all current prescription and non-prescription medications being taken.
Side effects include drowsiness (alcohol intensifies this side effect), dizziness, euphoria, nausea and vomiting. Call a doctor if you develop clammy skin, severe dizziness or drowsiness, anxiety, slow heart rate, breathing problems, confusion, seizures or extreme weakness.
Diphenoxylate and Atropine: Diphenoxylate and atropine, like codeine, can be habit forming. After long-term use, diphenoxylate and atropine should be reduced slowly as stopping suddenly causes withdrawal effects. These drugs help control chronic diarrhea by reducing bowel spasms and they also act as mild sedatives and proved pain relief.
Inform your doctor of any allergies you have, and all current medications being taken, especially MAO Inhibitors, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, vitamins, narcotics and muscle relaxants. If you have chronic lung problems, ulcerative colitis, liver disease, or a history of alcohol dependence, tell your doctor. If you are, or plan to become, pregnant, let your doctor know.
Side effects of treatment are rare, but can be severe. They include abdominal pain, upset stomach, vomiting, bloating, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, convulsions, severe rashes, palpitations and loss of appetite.
Centocor, Inc. (nd). Treatment for Crohn’s disease.
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2003, January). Crohn’s disease [NIH Publication No. 03-3410].
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2003, October). Diarrhea [NIH Publication No. 04-2749].