Cyclosporine for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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Cyclosporine for Inflammatory Bowel Disease


Generic NameBrand Name
cyclosporineNeoral, Sandimmune

How It Works

Cyclosporine is a medicine that weakens or suppresses the immune system, which may help decrease inflammation in the digestive tract.

Why It Is Used

Cyclosporine is used for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that has not responded to other medicines.

How Well It Works

Medicines that suppress the immune system have been effective against IBD. Cyclosporine usually is used for ulcerative colitis that does not respond to other medicines. Cyclosporine tends to work more quickly than other immunosuppressive medicines, such as azathioprine or mercaptopurine, during an acute attack of IBD.

Cyclosporine has been shown to reduce the need for surgery in acute attacks of IBD. It also works to put ulcerative colitis in remission and keep the disease in remission for a short time.1 This allows people to try other medicines to suppress IBD symptoms.

Cyclosporine also is used in treating abnormal connections (fistulas) of the intestines in Crohn's disease. In rare cases, cyclosporine may be used in people with Crohn's disease that does not improve with other medicines. But the side effects of the medicine keep it from being used for very long. Symptoms usually come back when the medicine is stopped.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Blood in your urine.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Seizures.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Vomiting.

Cyclosporine may also cause side effects that your doctor will test for, including:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Liver problems.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Headache.
  • Increased hair growth.
  • Shaking hands (tremor).
  • Sores in the mouth or bleeding, painful, or swollen gums.
  • Tingling in your feet or hands.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

When you are taking cyclosporine (and even when you have finished taking it), make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations. Some vaccines can actually cause the disease they are trying to prevent in people who are taking cyclosporine.

Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice when you are taking this medicine.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Women who use this medicine during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your condition.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. American Gastroenterological Association (2006). American Gastroenterological Association Institute medical position statement on corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and infliximab in inflammatory bowel disease. Gastroenterology, 130(3): 935–939. Available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last Revised December 6, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.