There are several medications used to treat ulcerative colitis, and these can be grouped into five categories:

  • Aminosalicylates (5-ASAsAn abbreviation for aminosalicylates, a family of drugs that reduce inflammation.) act by reducing inflammationThe body’s response to injury. - for example mesalazine, balsalazide, olsalazine, or sulphasalazine
  • Corticosteroids (often just called 'steroids') are anti-inflammatoryAny drug that suppresses inflammation drugs - for example prednisolone, budesonide
  • Immunosuppressants are drugs that alter the activity of the immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection., so reducing the inflammationThe body’s response to injury. that causes many of the problems in ulcerative colitis. Examples include azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, methotrexate and ciclosporin
  • Biological therapies are newer types of medications. These treatments interrupt specific parts of the inflammationThe body’s response to injury. process - for example infliximab, adalimumab.

Your doctor will explain your treatment choices, which will depend on the extent and severity of the inflammationThe body’s response to injury. in your large intestineThe section of gut, or gastrointestinal tract, from the stomach to the anus.. These might be to:

  • Treat the symptoms to induce remission
  • Prevent recurrence of symptoms to maintain remission
  • Treat particular symptoms

You should discuss all the options and the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor as there are a number of treatments for ulcerative colitis.

Your doctor will talk to you about which types of drugs are being prescribed, and why.

Medications to induce remission

Aminosalicylates (mesalazine for example) are often used to lessen symptoms of ulcerative colitis. In some cases, steroids Compounds with a common basic structure, which occur naturally in the body. The term may also refer to man-made drugs administered because they act like hormones.(prednisolone for example) will be needed to reduce the level of symptoms. If these treatments are not effective, other drugs such as azathioprine, infliximab or adalimumab may be used.

Medications to maintain remission

Some of the medications used to induce remission are also used to prevent flare-upsTerm to describe episodes when the symptoms of a condition worsen. of symptoms - for example, aminosalicylatesA family of drugs that reduce inflammation. (such as mesalazine, balsalazide, olsalazine, or sulfasalazine).

If these are not enough to control the problems, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroidsA group of hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. (prednisolone and budesonide are examples), immunosuppressants (azathioprine for example) or biological therapiesA group of therapies that interfere with specific parts of the inflammation process. (Called 'biologic therapies' in American English.) (infliximab for example).

It is important that you take medications to prevent flare-upsTerm to describe episodes when the symptoms of a condition worsen. as your doctor instructs, even if you feel perfectly well. It is not advisable to stop taking any medication without speaking to your doctor first.

Medications to treat particular symptoms

At different times, you may experience problems that will need particular drugs to treat them. Your doctor may therefore prescribe one or more of the following medications to provide some relief from these problems. It is not usually necessary to take these medications all the time:

  • Diphenoxylate or loperamide to treat diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid.. Dehydration caused by diarrhoeaWhen bowel evacuation happens more often than usual, or where the faeces are abnormally liquid. is treated with fluids along with salt and other minerals that may have been lost as well. In severe cases you may need to stay in hospital to receive fluids through an intravenous dripA means for the continuous injection into a vein.
  • Methylcellulose and sterculia (bulking agents) to relieve constipation
  • Analgesics to relieve pain (paracetamol for example). Painkillers belonging to a class of drugs called NSAIDS, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, should be avoided
  • Iron supplements to treat anaemiaA reduced level of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood. Anaemia causes tiredness, breathlessness and abnormally pale skin.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements as needed.

It is important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor, who can then advise you on the best dosages.