The Management of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a chronic condition that you are likely to live with for decades. While most people experience mild to moderate symptoms, they can be unpredictable and fluctuate over time. So, what can you expect in the future, and how can you better manage your symptoms?
Can UC Go into Remission?
Experts classify Ulcerative Colitis as a relapsing and remitting condition, meaning that symptoms come and go over time. Some individuals may experience months or even years without any symptoms. Remission can be defined differently, focusing on a balance between treating symptoms and managing side effects. For some, an improved overall quality of life, including a symptom-free social life, may be the main priority. Data shows that approximately half of Americans with UC are in remission, while the other half experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
There are generally three types of UC remission:
- Clinical Remission: No abdominal pain, diarrhea, or blood in the stool.
- Endoscopic Remission: Absence of inflammation during a colonoscopy.
- Deep (Histological) Remission: No symptoms, inflammation, or signs of UC at a cellular level under the microscope.
Does Deep Remission Mean I Am Cured?
Currently, the only cure for UC is the surgical removal of the colon and rectum. Even in deep remission, there is still a possibility of relapse in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to continue managing the condition and staying in touch with your healthcare provider.
It’s important to communicate with your doctor before discontinuing any medications. Relapse risk increases when medication is stopped without professional consultation.
What to Expect When Symptoms Recur?
Understanding your body and recognizing symptoms when they reappear are vital when dealing with a chronic condition like UC, where symptoms fluctuate. Look out for increased stool frequency, blood or mucus in stools, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, urgency to have a bowel movement, changes in bowel habits, weight loss, fatigue, and fever.
Identifying triggers that worsen your condition and regularly consulting with your doctor can help differentiate a UC flare-up from other conditions. It is also important to note that the likelihood of future relapses increases when currently experiencing active UC. Quitting smoking, staying active, managing stress, and avoiding triggering foods can help keep symptoms under control.
In addition to lifestyle modifications, well-tailored medications play a crucial role in managing flare-ups. Regular follow-ups and tests are necessary, even when asymptomatic, to effectively monitor the condition and adjust treatment as needed.