Living with ulcerative colitis isn’t a walk in the park and that’s an understatement. As an inflammatory bowel disease, it has debilitating symptoms caused by the long-lasting sores and inflammation in the digestive tract. In particular, the large intestine and rectum are the most affected parts so there’s also the risk of cancer.
But all isn’t doom and gloom with the disease either. While there’s no known cure yet, doctors can recommend several effective treatments in the reduction of its signs and symptoms. In many cases, there may even be long-term remission and relief!
Doctors and patients with ulcerative colitis can choose from several categories of drugs in the treatment of the disease. But keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all drug regimen for it either since some drugs may work well for some people but not for others.
You and your doctor will likely adopt a trial-and-error method before the right combination of drugs can be found in your case. Your doctor will also weigh the risks and rewards of each drug, especially as some of them have serious side effects and complications.
The drugs used in treatment can include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs are usually the first line of defense against ulcerative colitis because these decrease the inflammation in the digestive tract. These include 5-aminosalicylates; corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone and prednisone; and immune system suppressors.
The immunosuppressant drugs are prescription medications and aren’t recommended for use over a long-term period because of the risks of serious side effects. These include azathioprine, cyclosporine, and adalimumab (e.g., Humira), among others. You should neither take them nor stop them without consulting with your doctor first.
- Antibiotics for controlling and preventing bacterial infections.
- Anti-diarrheal medications for reducing the severity of the symptoms, especially in case of severe diarrhea.
- Pain relievers can also be recommended since ulcerative colitis can be extremely painful. But don’t take ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and diclofenac sodium since these can aggravate your pain; only acetaminophen is recommended.
You may also take iron supplements to prevent iron deficiency anemia due to chronic intestinal bleeding.
Your doctor will likely recommend proctocolectomy, the removal of the entire colon and rectum, as a last resort in getting relief from ulcerative colitis. You have to carefully consider its pros and cons, too, especially since stool collection occurs in a pouch outside of your stomach.
But it isn’t just relief from your symptoms that you have to look out for when you have the disease. Your doctor will also recommend a surveillance colonoscopy at regular intervals due to the increase risk of colon cancer.