Any Cure for Ulcerative Colitis?

How close are researchers to finding a cure for ulcerative colitis? People with colitis suffer a lot.



Patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), a chronic, inflammatory condition involving the rectum and colon, have their lives disrupted by frequent abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, fevers and weight loss. Unfortunately, the cause of this disease is not yet known, a fact that has hampered efforts to find a cure.

Currently, doctors suspect that UC is triggered by some environmental agent, possibly a bacterium, which causes inflammation in the colon of genetically susceptible individuals. For reasons that still aren't well understood, it appears that the person's immune system is unable to clear the inflammation and it persists over the long term.

At this time, therapy for UC is focused on limiting the inflammation associated with this disease. Steroids, mesalamine, 6-mercaptopurine and cyclosporine are some of the anti-inflammatory medications used to treat UC symptoms. Also, the disease can be "eliminated" through surgical removal of the colon and rectum. Certainly, it is not ideal to remove the colon and rectum. However, such surgery may be necessary in some patients, including those with severe UC that does not respond to medication. Removal of the colon and rectum is followed by a surgical creation of a new rectum (from the small intestine) and this is usually hooked back up to the anus during the same operation. The new rectal pouch is not perfect and can develop inflammation (known as pouchitis). However, the inflammation typical of UC should not recur once the colon has been removed.

Hopefully, as our scientific understanding of UC improves, we will develop a way to truly cure UC and bring relief to those living with the disorder.