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Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that primarily affects the colon and rectum. It is characterized by inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon, leading to various gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, rectal bleeding and pain. It typically follows a pattern of flare-ups (active disease) and periods of remission (no or minimal symptoms). The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.

The goal of treatment for ulcerative colitis is to reduce inflammation, control symptoms, and induce and maintain remission to improve quality of life.

The specific treatment options depend on the severity of the condition and may vary from person to person. Here are some common treatment options for ulcerative colitis:

  • Aminosalicylates (5-ASA): These anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first-line treatment for mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. They can be taken orally or administered as enemas or suppositories.
  • Corticosteroids: These powerful anti-inflammatory drugs are used to control moderate to severe flare-ups. They are typically prescribed for short-term use due to their side effects.
  • Immunomodulators: Drugs such as azathioprine, mercaptopurine, cyclosporin, and methotrexate suppress the immune system to reduce inflammation. They are used to maintain remission and reduce the need for corticosteroids.
  • Biologics: These newer drugs, such as infliximab, adalimumab, vedolizumab, and ustekinumab, target specific proteins involved in the inflammation process. They are generally reserved for moderate to severe cases or when other medications have not been effective.
  • Janus Kinase Inhibitors: Small molecules drugs like tofacitinib and upacitinab work by blocking certain pathways involved in the immune response. They are used for moderate to severe ulcerative colitis.

Rectal 5-ASA: Suppositories or enemas containing aminosalicylates can be used to target inflammation in the rectum and lower colon.

  • Some individuals find relief by making dietary changes, such as avoiding trigger foods, adopting a low-residue or low-fiber diet during flare-ups, and maintaining a well-balanced diet.
  • Stress management techniques and regular exercise may also help reduce symptoms and improve overall well-being.

  • To prevent bone mass loss called osteopenia and osteoporosis, Vitamin D and calcium supplements may be recommended.
  • Severe complications including infections may require hospitalization, antibiotics and blood transfusions.
  • Life threatening complications may be treated with surgery.

  • In cases of severe ulcerative colitis that do not respond to medication or when complications arise, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical options can range from removing the colon and rectum (proctocolectomy) and creating an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) to the creation of an ileostomy. Surgery may be open or laparoscopic.

Therapeutic strategics for ulcerative colitis are constantly evolving. At Rockford Gastroenterology Associates our specialists stay up to date on information and guidance regarding new medications and treatment options. Our goal is to provide you with a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve remission and reduce the risk of complications so that you enjoy a good quality of life.

When you or a loved one suffers with ulcerative colitis, contact Rockford Gastroenterology Associates today to ensure you receive the correct diagnosis and all your treatment options.

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