Research into new ulcerative colitis treatments is currently being conducted in numerous universities and medical research facilities. The NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the United States reports that there are currently about 270 clinical studies underway or recently completed. More than 600,000 individuals in the U.S. alone - and millions more around the world - could benefit from drugs and therapies developed in these trials.
Approximately 300 ulcerative colitis patients die each year in the United States, so the mortality rate for this disorder is fairly low. Regardless, doctors consider it to be a serious digestive illness. It accounts for 80,000 hospitalizations every year, and doctors prescribe more than two million drugs for it annually.
This disease gets its name because inflammation causes ulcers to grow in the lining of the colon and intestines. These ulcers may produce pus and often bleed.
Medical researchers have not been able to develop any cures for ulcerative colitis. Certain medicines have been developed that alleviate pain from symptoms. These drugs may also reduce inflammation, slow down the progress of the disease, prevent complications, and replace blood and nutritional losses. Plus, these medications may help damaged tissues heal, prevent new flare ups, and lower the necessity of surgery in the future.
In choosing ulcerative colitis medications, your doctor will evaluate the progression of the disorder, the part of the colon that is affected, and any complications that may have developed.
If the disease is in the mild to moderate stage, the first choice of medications is usually aminosalicylates. Drugs called sulfasalazine or mesalamine are often the first choice in these situations. Aminosalicylates focus on reducing any current inflammation, promoting remission, and keeping the disease from becoming active again. Frequently, aminosalicylates are all you need to keep it in remission. Remission means you are not experiencing or suffering symptoms.
When aminosalicylates don't work well enough, corticosteroids are usually the next choice. The main purpose of corticosteroids is to eliminate inflammation, and they'll only be used as long as it takes to bring inflammation under control. As soon as there's no longer inflammation, your doctor will probably resume treatment with aminosalicylates.
When neither aminosalicylates nor corticosteroids bring about remission, your doctor will probably have to try other medications. Typically, such medicine would include immunomodulators, cyclosporine, and infliximab. These medications help reduce or eliminate inflammation by controlling how your immune system responds to your disorder.
Pregnant women with this condition should discuss medications with their doctor. Aminosalicylates and corticosteroids are generally considered to be safe for pregnant women, especially if the doctor believes the disease is more of a threat to the unborn child than any effects of the drugs. Several ulcerative colitis drugs are available that are formulated for use according to the stage of the pregnancy and the severity of symptoms.
Several recent research studies have revealed that the nicotine patch may actually help. But right now it's not really clear how long the benefits last or whether the patch can prevent flare ups. Not only that, but there can other harmful side effects from nicotine - including addiction. So most doctors will hesitate to try the nicotine patch before all other options have been found to be ineffective.
As mentioned above, there are literally hundreds of research studies and clinical trials in progress aimed at discovering new treatments and ulcerative colitis medications. Their efforts, we hope, will soon pay off with the development of new drugs and ulcerative colitis treatments - possibly even in an ulcerative colitis cure.