Currently, the only cure for colitis is surgery. However, treatments are available that can relieve symptoms and suppress the inflammatory process. Therapy varies depending on the seriousness of the disease. Most people will require long-term medication. In severe cases or if cancer is found, surgery may be required to remove the diseased colon.
Drug therapy aims to improve the quality of life for people with colitis by inducing and maintaining remission, or symptom-free periods. There are three types of drugs most commonly prescribed to treat colitis. These include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids and immunomodulatory medicines.
An estimated 25 percent to 40 percent of patients will require surgery. This may be because medications are ineffective, they become dependent on corticosteroids, they have dysplasia (early cancer) or cancer, or they develop complications of the disease, such as bleeding, rupture of the colon, or dilation of the colon. In these cases, surgery to remove the colon and rectum, called proctocolectomy, may be recommended. Unlike Crohn's disease, which can recur after surgery, colitis is cured once the colon has been removed. However, associated diseases associated with colitis may still develop or progress after surgery. For example, primary sclerosing cholangitis, a liver condition, and Ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammation of the lower back, will still progress after surgery. Surgery is followed by one of the following:
- Ileal Pouch Anal Anastomosis Also called a restorative proctocolectomy, this procedure preserves part of the anus, which allows the patient to have normal bowel movements. The surgeon removes the diseased part of the colon and the inside of the rectum, leaving the outer muscles of the anus. The surgeon then creates a pouch from the end of the ileum and attaches it to the inside of the anus. Waste is stored in the pouch and passed through the anus in the usual manner. Bowel movements may be more frequent and watery than before the procedure and inflammation of the internal pouch is a possible complication. This is known as pouchitis. However, patients who have an ileoanal anastomosis do not have to wear a permanent external ileostomy pouch.
- Ileostomy During this surgical procedure, the surgeon creates a small opening in the abdomen, called a stoma, to which he or she attaches the end of the small intestine, called the ileum. Waste will travel through the small intestine and exit the body through the stoma, which is about the size of a quarter and is usually located in the lower right part of the abdomen near the beltline. A pouch is worn over the opening to collect waste, and the patient empties the pouch as needed.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.
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