Treatment for UC depends on how severe the symptoms are and how far the inflammation reaches round the colon.

Initially, especially if your UC is quite mild, you will probably be treated with 5-ASA drugs such as mesalazine or sulphasalazine. You may also be given steroids. These drugs help reduce the gut inflammation typical of UC. Once the active inflammation has gone into remission (settled down), 5-ASAs are usually prescribed as maintenance therapy to reduce the chance of a flare-up.

Immunosuppressant drugs, such as azathioprine or mercaptopurine may be prescribed for people with UC who continue to have frequent flare ups or ongoing symptoms. For more severe UC, treatment with steroids given intravenously (directly into a vein, through a drip) may be necessary. If this does not work, you may be given another immunosuppressant, ciclosporin. Biologics such as infliximab are now also used for severe UC.

If the disease is very severe and is not responding to medical therapy, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove part or all of the large bowel. This may mean having an ileostomy and a stoma bag. An alternative could be to have an internal pouch, instead of a stoma. Although the idea of bowel surgery can be daunting, many people find they can cope better with a stoma or a pouch than with the UC symptoms they were previously experiencing.

For more information see our MedicationsSurgeryDiet, and Ostomy care sections.