Ulcerative colitis treatment begins with a definitive diagnosis and a determination of the severity of illness. Once this initial diagnosis has been made, the immediate goal of treatment is to reduce the painful physical symptoms associated with it. Since there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, the long-term goal of treatment is to prevent future onset of illness, or relapse.
Both ulcerative colitis, and a related disorder called Crohn's Disease, are characterized by an abnormal immune system response within the intestines. In patients with ulcerative colitis, the location of this response is restricted to the large intestine, or colon. The resulting inflammation and ulceration of the intestinal walls can cause abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding, the main symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Due to the fact that other health conditions may exist that exhibit similar symptoms, care for ulcerative colitis begins with a confirmation of this initial diagnosis. This includes taking stool samples to rule out the presence of parasites or an existing infection within the colon, and performing blood tests to detect elevated white blood cell counts (high white blood cell counts indicate that the cause of inflammation is due to the activation of the body's own immune response).
A visual examination, either directly using a sigmoidoscope or a colonoscope, or indirectly via a barium enema, will help make the final confirmation that colitis is in fact the culprit. These visualization techniques are an essential step in ulcerative colitis treatment because they allow the physician to measure the severity of the illness, and therefore to figure out the best course to minimize the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Medications play a large part in both the initial treatment and long-term care for ulcerative colitis. These medications fall into two main categories: immunomodulators, which alter the proteins produced by the immune system which cause inflammation, and anti-inflammatory medications, which act to reduce the inflammation directly. Although these medications do not cure ulcerative colitis, they can induce remission of its symptoms and lengthen the time between relapses. As such they offer an ulcerative colitis treatment option that many sufferers take advantage of.
Very rarely, ulcerative colitis is treated surgically. Although surgery is the only true cure for the disease, it is inherently risky and therefore often reserved only for cases in which prolonged inflammation of the colon has resulted in life-threatening complications.
Although research has not yet shown any correlation between diet and the initial onset of ulcerative colitis, a low-fat, bland diet may alleviate some of the symptoms during periods of disease activity. Similarly, a healthy, balanced diet may help to prolong periods of disease remission.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis mentioned above, make sure you visit your doctor right away for a thorough examination. If you do have this disorder, your doctor will help you determine the best ulcerative colitis treatment for your particular case.