Ulcerative Colitis: Cure and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
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There are currently no medications that can completely cure ulcerative colitis. However, treatments to help manage symptoms are available.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) causes inflammation in the lining of the rectum and colon. It occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your body.

Initial symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stools, and abdominal pain.

This article will explain the different treatments for ulcerative colitis. It will also discuss current research toward finding a cure.

Is there a cure for UC?

a person is drinking water and looking out of a window
Javier Pardina/Stocksy United (person appearing is a model and used for illustrative purposes only)

UC is not currently curable, but there are treatments to help manage symptoms.

The goals of treatment, according to the National Health Service (NHS), includes reducing symptoms and maintaining remission.

UC typically follows a pattern of relapse and remission. Most people with the condition experience remission within the first 10 years after diagnosis. Your doctor will work to maintain remission for as long as possible.

Treatment options for UC

Doctors typically use a combination of medications and dietary recommendations to treat UC.

The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity of symptoms and the frequency of flare-ups.

Here is an overview of the treatment options.

Diet and nutrition

Dietary adjustments are often necessary to help manage the symptoms of UC.

UC can cause a loss of appetite, and certain foods may trigger flare-ups. Many people with UC also experience lactose intolerance.

Because of these issues, your doctor may recommend eating a healthy, balanced diet. They may also ask you to reduce your dairy intake.

Other dietary changes your doctor may recommend for UC include:

  • sticking to soft, bland foods
  • avoiding spicy and high fiber foods
  • drinking plenty of water

Learn more about managing the symptoms of UC.

Medications

Medications can help reduce inflammation in the colon and speed up the healing process. They may also help decrease the frequency of flare-ups and extend periods of remission.

The NHS lists some common medications doctors prescribe for UC:

  • Aminosalicylates or 5-ASAs: These boost tissue healing.
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisolone: These help reduce inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants such as tacrolimus and azathioprine: These help reduce atypical immune reactions.
  • Ciclosporin: This suppresses immune activity.
  • Biologic medications: These help reduce inflammation.

Doctors often administer these medications via injection or infusion.

Surgery

If UC is too severe for conventional treatments, a doctor may consider a colectomy.

A colectomy is a surgery to remove the colon. Doctors can perform this procedure in two ways:

  • Ileostomy: A doctor will remove the entire colon and create an opening in the abdomen for waste to pass.
  • Ileoanal pouch: A doctor will create an internal pouch with the small intestine and attach it to the anus. This method allows a person to pass waste normally.

Colectomy is an effective management method for ulcerative colitis. However, there are many risks involved, including infection.

A doctor will discuss the possible side effects with you before performing the procedure.

Learn more about treatment options for UC.

New treatments for UC

Tofacitinib is a new prescription drug for UC. It works by suppressing atypical immune activity.

Tofacitinib is available in three forms:

  • tablet
  • extended-release or long-acting tablet
  • oral liquid solution

Tofacitinib can be effective for some cases of ulcerative colitis. However, it may decrease your body’s ability to fight infection. It may also cause allergic reactions in some people.

Your doctor will typically only consider this medication if other treatments are not effective.

Importance of treatment for UC

According to researchers, symptoms of UC often mimic those of other conditions. This may occasionally lead to a misdiagnosis.

Also, some people with UC are not aware they have the condition until their symptoms worsen. This can reduce the chance of receiving successful treatment.

Contact your doctor promptly if you have concerns about symptoms of UC.

Learn about the diagnostic process for UC.

Possible complications of UC

Left untreated, UC may lead to complications. 

Complications of UC include:

  • severe rectal bleeding
  • perforation of the large intestine
  • toxic megacolon, where inflammation advances into the deep tissue layers of the large intestine
  • growth and development problems in children
  • cancer of the rectum and colon

Seek early treatment to lower your risk of these complications.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about UC.

How close are we to curing UC?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is not currently curable, and researchers are still working on developing a cure. However, new treatments regularly become available, such as tofacitinib, a type of JAK inhibitor.

Can UC go away on its own?

UC does not typically heal on its own. However, treatment can provide periods of remission.

How do I get rid of UC permanently?

Surgery may be a permanent solution for treating ulcerative colitis. It involves the complete removal of the colon using a colectomy.

However, there are less severe treatment options available that can ease the symptoms of UC. Your doctor may not recommend surgery for all cases. There are many risks involved, including infection. Talk with your doctor about which treatment is best for you.

Summary

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is inflammation of the lining of the rectum and colon. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stools, and abdominal pain.

There is currently no cure for the condition. However, treatments are available to help manage symptoms. They include immunosuppressants, corticosteroids, and biologic medications.

Left untreated, UC can lead to complications. They include severe rectal bleeding and perforation of the large intestine.

Seek early treatment if you are concerned about symptoms of UC.

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Medical Reviewer: Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 28
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