Treatment of ulcerative colitis

The severity of ulcerative colitis varies from person to person. To treat ulcerative colitis, the doctor will need to evaluate the severity of your symptoms and condition, and determine which treatments are most suitable for you.

Life-long therapy is recommended for patients with extensive disease or who suffer from more than one relapse (a return of symptoms) per year.

Treatments can help to relieve symptoms and reduce inflammation in the large intestine. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend one or a combination of treatments:

  • Anti‐inflammatory drugs, such as aminosalicylates, may be prescribed to help reduce symptoms and prevent flare ups. These agents are the mainstay of maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis 
  • Corticosteroids are also used to treat flare ups, and to relieve abdominal pain and tenderness. They may be prescribed to people who do not respond to aminosalicylates
  • Immunosuppressants are generally prescribed when anti-inflammatory drugs have failed, and a person shows signs of more serious ulcerative colitis
  • Antibiotics are generally used to treat flare ups and to prevent and fight infections
  • Biologic agents are indicated for patients with moderate to severe ulcerative colitis, where standard medical therapy has been insufficiently effective. They work by preventing specific biological proteins from triggering processes within the inflammatory pathway

You may also be given other drugs to help you relax or to relieve pain, diarrhoea or infection.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis other than surgical removal of the large intestine, though surgery is only considered when medication can no longer control the symptoms or to treat mechanical complications. Surgery might also be required for people at risk of colorectal cancer (typically, people who have lived with ulcerative colitis for more than 10 years).

If you have any further questions about your treatment options, please contact your healthcare practitioner.