An increasing number of options are available for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease; the selection depends on the extent and severity of the disease. Experience with sulfasalazine and corticosteroids has led to a proliferation of 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) compounds and experimentation with alternative corticosteroid preparations. Given rectally 5-ASA is particularly effective in the treatment of distal ulcerative colitis, and experience is accumulating with several oral formulations. Metronidazole is useful in some cases, and immunosuppressive agents have a role in some patients with chronic refractory disease. A variety of measures, such as nutritional therapy, surgery and psychosocial support, are important elements of therapy. Further therapeutic innovations are expected as the etiology and pathogenesis are clarified.