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Management of Ulcerative Colitis: Medications

Your health care provider may prescribe medication to help control your ulcerative colitis symptoms and help improve your quality of life. It won’t cure ulcerative colitis, but it can help keep it from slowing you down. Work closely with your health care provider. You may have certain side effects or your symptoms may change. In this case, your medication or dosage may need to be changed.

Anti-Inflammatories

These drugs can reduce inflammation and pain in the intestinal lining. They must be prescribed by your health care provider. The most common anti-inflammatories for ulcerative colitis are called 5-ASA compounds, or mesalamine. They help control symptoms over long periods of time. They may be taken as pills, but they also can be taken as an enema or suppository, inserted directly into the rectum.

Possible Side Effects of 5-ASA Compounds

Your health care provider will explain the side effects and other details of any new medications. Call your health care provider if any side effects become severe.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation. Unlike 5-ASA compounds, they are most often taken for short periods only, with dosages gradually reduced. They also shouldn’t be taken during remission. (Remission is a long period without severe symptoms.)

Possible Side Effects of Corticosteroids

Taken over time, corticosteroids can cause severe side effects. They also may put you at risk for diabetes.

Side effects may include:

  • Mood changes

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Weight gain

  • Puffy face or acne

  • Changes in body shape

  • Bone loss or fractures

  • High blood pressure

  • Eye problems

  • Facial hair (women)

  • Stretch marks

Other Medications

  • Immunosuppressives act on the immune system, the part of your body that fights disease. This may reduce symptoms. These medications can be taken for long periods. But you may need to see your doctor more often to monitor your health.

  • Antibiotics may be given for infection.

Handling Side Effects

You and your health care provider will discuss side effects. In most cases, side effects are easy to manage. But sometimes they can be so severe that you need to change medication. Call your health care provider if you’re having side effects that trouble you. Also call if you’re having any side effects that are unexpected.

Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Sather, Rita, RN
Last Review Date: 3/15/2013
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