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Ulcerative Colitis Health Center

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Ulcerative Colitis

How Is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?

Treatment for ulcerative colitis can include drug therapy, changes in diet, and/or surgery. Though treatments cannot cure ulcerative colitis, they can help most people lead normal lives.

It is important for you to seek treatment for ulcerative colitis as soon as you start having symptoms. If you have severe diarrhea and bleeding, hospitalization may be necessary to prevent or treat dehydration, reduce your symptoms, and ensure that you receive proper nutrition.

Medications for Ulcerative Colitis

Several types of medications, including sulfa drugs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, and antibiotics, are used to reduce inflammation of the bowel.

  • 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA). Mesalamine, balsalazide, and sulfasalazine are main medications used to treat ulcerative colitis. They come in pills and suppositories. Let your doctor know if you are allergic to sulfa before taking one of these drugs. He or she can prescribe a sulfa-free 5-ASA.
  • Corticosteroids. These anti-inflammatory drugs can be used when 5-ASA drugs don't help. Corticosteroids are also used to treat people who have more severe disease. The use of corticosteroids is limited by side effects and the potential of long-term complications. In general, corticosteroids are used for short periods of time to cause remission. Remission is maintained with a 5-ASA medication.
  • Immunosuppressants. If corticosteroids or 5-ASA drugs are not effective, immunosuppressants, such as 6-mercaptopurine (6-MP), azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine, and tacrolimus (Prograf) may be prescribed.
  • Biologics. This class of drugs includes adalimumab (Humira), certolizumab pegol (Cimzia), golimumab (Simponi), infliximab (Remicade), vedolizumad (Entyvio), and others.


Diet Changes for Ulcerative Colitis

While foods appear to play no role in causing ulcerative colitis, certain foods may cause more symptoms when the disease is active. Your doctor may suggest dietary recommendations depending on your symptoms. Vitamins or nutritional supplements may also be suggested by your doctor.

Surgery for Ulcerative Colitis

Surgery for ulcerative colitis, in which the diseased section or entire colon is removed, may be necessary when drugs are not effective or if you have significant progression of symptoms or severe complications of the disease.

If the entire colon is removed, the operation most often creates an opening, or stoma, in the abdominal wall, to which a bag is attached (called a permanent ileostomy or Brooke ileostomy). The tip of the lower small intestine is brought through the stoma. Waste passes through this opening and collect in an external pouch, which is attached to the stoma and must be worn at all times.

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