Six Treatment Options for Ulcerative Colitis

Sara Suchy | Nov 13th 2012 Sep 6th 2017

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Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease that attacks the digestive tract. Symptoms can sometimes be managed by diet changes, but most patients need some kind of medication to keep the disease in remission and treat symptoms as they arise. The specific treatments used will depend on the severity of each case.

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Drug therapies

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Some cases of Ulcerative Colitis are treated with medications.  The aim of drug therapies is to alleviate and resolve the symtpoms of UC by inducing remission of the disease, prevent flare ups by maintaining remission.  There are four common types of drugs used for treating UC: aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and biologic drugs.

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Aminosalicylates

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Mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis is usually treated with aspirin-like medications called aminosalicylates, or 5-ASAs.  This medication is also used to treat relapses.  They may be administered rectally in patients who have mild-to-moderate cases that occur only in the last portion of the intestine. They can also be taken orally.

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Corticosteroids

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Corticosteroids may be added or used alone to reduce sudden and severe flare ups of ulcerative colitis.  They can be administered rectally or orally, depending on the case.  People who do not respond to less aggressive treatments may need to take intravenous steroids.  This type of medication is not recommended for long-term use because of their hard side effects.

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Immunosuppressants

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Immunosuppressants are drugs that suppress the immune system.  They are helpful in treating ulcerative colitis either alone or in combination with other treatment methods when the disease does not respond to other attempts to keep it in remission.

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Biologic drugs

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Biologic drugs are designed to stimulate the immune system and interfere with specific proteins (cytokines) involved with the inflammatory response.

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Surgery

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Medications do not help about 25 to 40 percent of patients with ulcerative colitis. These patients need surgery to alleviate the disease and to prevent hemorrhage, perforation of the colon or toxic megacolon.  The type of surgery performed depends of the severity of the disease.  A restorative proctolectomy or total proctocolectomy with ileostomy are the two definitive surgical approaches to UC.

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Diet and lifestyle changes

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Ulcerative colitis hinders the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and calories.  Patients should strive to eat a well-balanced, calorie-dense and nutritious diet.  Each person’s particular food sensitivities will differ, but most should stay hydrated and avoid greasy, high-fiber and milk products.

NEXT: Six Ways to Prepare for an Ulcerative Colitis Flare
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