Three Goals in Treating Ulcerative Colitis

December 7, 2009

There are several types of colitis. Ulcerative colitis is one of the most common. I assume this is the variety from which your relative is suffering. Asacol (mesalamine) is prescribed to treat ulcerative colitis (UC).

This condition is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine and rectum. The cause is unknown and may affect anyone at any age, but is most common in those aged 15 to 30 and 50 to 70. The risk of developing the affliction is increased in those with a family history or Jewish ancestry. It estimated that 10 to 15 people out of every 100,000 will develop UC.

Ulcerative colitis typically starts in the rectum and may extend into the entire large intestine. Repeated attacks of inflammation can lead to thickening of the intestinal wall. Severe cases may cause sepsis (infection that spreads into the blood and circulatory system) and/or necrosis (death) of colon tissue.

Symptoms include fever, weight loss, joint pain, nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal bleeding, diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping that usually resolves following a bowel movement and tenesmus (a feeling of needing to empty the bowels constantly, associated with pain, cramping and straining).

There are three treatment goals: control acute attacks, prevent future attacks, and aid the colon in healing. This can often be achieved through the use of medication, such as mesalamine or azathioprine (an immunosuppressive drug). An IV medication called infliximab (also commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, severe psoriasis and Crohn’s disease) has been shown to improve symptoms, but is primarily used when other meds fail to produce positive results. Severe attacks may require hospitalization. Those who do not respond to medication or those who develop serious complications may require surgery. More…