Ulcerative colitis is an unpredictable disease. People with ulcerative colitis experience flare-ups of symptoms, also called attacks (or relapses if they happen more than once), followed by long periods of time, often weeks to years, when the symptoms go away (also called remissions). Everyone's experience with ulcerative colitis is different.

Can I expect a cure?

Ulcerative colitis can be cured by surgically removing the colon. However, surgery is not for everyone, and is usually reserved for severe cases.

Surgery comes with risks, and after surgery you may have a pouch inside your body to collect waste and that needs to be emptied via a valve that leads to the outside of your body, or you may need to wear a bag outside the body to collect solid waste.

What else can I expect from treatment?

Because the effects of ulcerative colitis vary from person to person, treatment goals may also vary. Talk to your gastroenterologist about your personal treatment goals and creating a treatment plan. Treatment for ulcerative colitis involves nutritional therapy (to prevent malnutrition that can occur), medications, and possibly surgery.

In general, ulcerative colitis treatment aims to:

  • bring your disease under control (relieve symptoms and reduce the frequency of attacks)
  • improve your quality of life and help you live a normal, active life
  • treat complications such as malnutrition, osteoporosis (thin, brittle bones), and blood clots in the legs, since people with ulcerative colitis may be at increased risk for these complications

Your doctor will work with you to find the treatment options that best meet your needs. Factors your doctor will consider when recommending a treatment include:

  • which parts of the digestive system are affected
  • how severe your symptoms are and how the they are affecting your quality of life
  • which treatments you have tried in the past

Medications have a variety of roles in treating ulcerative colitis. Depending on the medication, the role may be to:

  • relieve symptoms during a flare-up
  • keep the condition in remission
  • treat or prevent complications of ulcerative colitis
  • control the disease itself, not just the signs and symptoms