The purpose of medical treatment is to control the episodes of inflammation and diarrhea that accompany flare-ups of ulcerative colitis (UC). Following inflammation and diarrhea treatment, long-term relapse prevention and modulation (controlling) efforts are generally begun.Diarrhea Treatments
Specific medications are used just for diarrhea treatment. Anticholinergic drugs are commonly used in mild cases of diarrhea, one dose early in the day and after each episode during the day. Severe cases are treated with stronger medications. Side effects are an issue with all diarrhea treatment drugs, and some of them can cause more complicated ulcerative colitis conditions, such as toxic dilation of the colon.
Treatment for Inflammation
Inflammation is generally treated with anti-inflammatory medications, which are administered orally, intravenously, or, as an enema or suppository. Suppositories are a more preferred method of administration for proctitis (inflammation of the rectum alone). After inflammation subsides, anti-inflammatory use is tapered off. Another function of anti-inflammatory medication is pain control.
Most patients suffer relapses after an attack of ulcerative colitis, so treatment is also aimed at preventing relapse. Oral anti-inflammatory drugs are used to help prevent inflammation. Some drugs are used just for diarrhea treatment. Others are used to modulate the immune response and to stop inflammation from starting. Nausea, shortness of breath, and headaches are common side effects of immune modulator drugs.
The Role of the Immune System in UC
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to disease, injury, or “invasion” of viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites. In inflammatory bowel disease, the immune system cannot regulate its response and reacts to normal environmental conditions with chronic inflammation.
Surgery: The Only “Cure”
While, in most cases, UC can be controlled with medication, diet and lifestyle changes, the disease has no medical cure. Surgical removal of the entire colon and rectum is the only way to stop the disease. This is a drastic measure taken only when symptoms are out of control.
Research into the causes and treatment of the disease is badly needed. Clinical trials are the hope for the future: new treatments could be more effective than current standard medications.