Your doctor may prescribe medication to control your ulcerative colitis symptoms and improve your quality of life. Medication won't cure ulcerative colitis. But it can help keep the disease from slowing you down. As always, work closely with your doctor. Your medication or dosage may need to be changed if you have certain side effects or if your symptoms change.
Special anti-inflammatories treat the lining of the intestine. These medications can reduce inflammation and discomfort. But they're not like aspirin or other over-the-counter medications. They must be prescribed by a doctor. The most common anti-inflammatories for ulcerative colitis are called 5-ASA compounds. They can help control symptoms over long periods of time. 5-ASA compounds may be taken as pills. But they also can be taken as an enema or suppository (the medicine is put directly into the rectum).
Possible Side Effects of 5-ASA Compounds
The 5-ASA compound prescribed most often is in the "sulfa" family. Your doctor will explain its possible side effects to you. Some of them include:
Less common but more severe side effects may include fever and heart or liver problems. Severe side effects can be a sign of a sulfa allergy. If you have a sulfa allergy, your medication may need to be changed. Your doctor will explain the side effects and other details of any new medications you may need to take. Call your doctor if your side effects become severe.
Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Unlike 5-ASA compounds, corticosteroids are usually taken for short periods only. They shouldn't be taken in remission (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 (a blood sugar problem).
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
- Immunosuppressives treat the part of your body that fights disease (the immune system). By treating the immune system, inflammation may be reduced. Immunosuppressives can be taken for long periods. But you may need to see your doctor more often than usual for monitoring.
- Antibiotics fight the bacteria that can lead to infections in some cases of ulcerative colitis. Some patients may get sores in the digestive tract. These sores then drain into other parts of the body. This can lead to an infection. In some cases, antibiotics also help reduce inflammation.
Handling Side Effects
You and your doctor will discuss side effects. In most cases, side effects are easy to manage. But sometimes they can become severe enough that you need to change medication. Call your doctor if you're having side effects that trouble you. Also call if you're having any side effects that are unexpected.