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How are corticosteroids used to treat inflammatory bowel disease?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Corticosteroids, such as prednisone and budesonide, are drugs that act like hormones made by the body's adrenal gland. They are powerful drugs that reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system. They can have serious side effects, especially if taken for long periods. People who need to stop taking them must do it slowly, by taking smaller and smaller (tapered) doses over weeks or months. If you take a corticosteroid, follow your doctor's directions carefully.

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are usually given prednisone, taken by mouth. People with severe IBD may receive a corticosteroid by injection, such as hydrocortisone. Budesonide (Entocort EC) is a newer corticosteroid taken by mouth. It acts mainly on the end of the small intestine and start of the large intestine. Budesonide and other corticosteroids are also available as rectal suppositories, foams, or enemas for IBD in the rectum or colon. 

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