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Ulcerative Colitis (cont.)

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Patient Comments

Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease. Most people are treated with medication. If there is significant bleeding, infection, or complications, surgery may be required to remove the diseased colon. Surgery is the only cure for ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis may affect patients in different ways, and treatment is adjusted to meet the needs of the specific patient. Emotional and psychological support is also important.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis come and go. Periods of remission, in which symptoms resolve, may last for months or years before relapsing. Patients and physicians need to decide together whether medications will be continued during remission times. In some patients, it may be the case that the medications keep the disease under control, and stopping them will cause a relapse.

Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong illness and cannot be ignored. Routine medical check-ups are necessary and scheduled colonoscopies are important to monitor the health of the patient and to make certain that the ulcerative colitis is under control and not spreading.


  • Significant complications may occur with an acute flare of ulcerative colitis including dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities from profuse diarrhea, and anemia from rectal bleeding.
  • A surgical emergency exists if the colon becomes weakened at a site of inflammation and perforates, spilling bowel contents into the abdominal cavity.
  • Other organs of the body may become inflamed, including the eyes, muscles, joints, skin, and the liver.
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis may be associated with severe ulcerative colitis. In this condition the ducts that drain bile from the liver become inflamed and scared.

The risk of cancer

Colon cancer is the major long-term complication of ulcerative colitis. The risk of colon cancer begins after ulcerative colitis has been present for 8 to 10 years and increases by 1% to 2% for every year that the disease is present. The risk is greater for those whose entire colon is affected as opposed to those who have only a small segment involved such as the rectum. Screening colonoscopy is recommended 8 to 10 years after the onset of the initial symptoms to look for cancer or pre-cancerous changes in the lining of the colon. Colonoscopy should be repeated routinely, the frequency depends upon whether a part or all of the colon is involved with the disease and how long the disease has been present.

Associated illnesses

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis may be associated with severe ulcerative colitis. In this condition the ducts that drain bile from the liver become inflamed and scared.
  • Iritis or uveitis. These diseases indicate inflammation of the eye.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a disease that causes inflammation in the joints between the vertebrae in the spine and the joints between the spine and the pelvis.
  • Erythema nodusum, in which the skin becomes inflamed.

Ulcerative Colitis Self-Care at Home

Mild diarrhea may be controlled with diet.

  • Clear fluids for 24 hours allows the colon to rest and will usually resolve the loose bowel movements.
  • Milk products and fatty, greasy foods should be avoided for a few days.
  • Increase in fluid intake is encouraged to prevent dehydration. Urine output can be used as a gauge of hydration. If the urine is yellow and concentrated, more fluid may be required.

Proper nutrition is important for a person with ulcerative colitis.

  • Although specific foods do not cause the disease, some types of food may trigger discomfort and diarrhea.
  • Spicy or high-fiber foods may need to be eliminated especially when the diarrhea phase is active.
  • Keep a food diary to help find foods that cause problems.
  • A well-balanced diet is always a smart choice.

Counseling and education are important for both patient and family; a better understanding of how ulcerative colitis affects the body will allow the patient and physician to work together to control the symptoms.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/7/2016
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