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Understanding inflammation is the key to managing your ulcerative colitis (UC). To do this, it’s important to learn about the role of inflammation in this disease.

Many gastroenterologists define remission as the complete absence of symptoms. The definition of remission that is often used in clinical practice is having normal bowel movements without bleeding. If you feel your medication is not working, talk to your doctor about other treatment options. Here are some of the things you should know about inflammation and UC.

Your body’s response to UC

The response of your immune system can be good or bad. Our immune system responds to an infection or injury to defend and protect our health. In UC, the body's defense system may overreact and not know when to turn off, causing signs of mucosal inflammation. However, if UC is in remission, there may be no signs of active inflammation.

Inflammation is a factor in UC

In UC, inflammation takes place in the mucosal lining of the colon. The presence of inflammation may produce symptoms like diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgency, and abdominal pain. As the inflammation gets worse, ulcers (or sores) may develop.

To help treat UC, doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce inflammation in the colon. Doctors realize that managing UC symptoms alone is not enough. If inflammation in the rectum or colon is ongoing, symptoms may not go away, and additional symptoms may occur. But when inflammation is reduced, you may see a reduction in symptoms.

How is your treatment affecting your UC?

Talk to your doctor about your UC treatment and any changes you may be experiencing. There are several things your doctor will look at to determine how well your treatment is working. To see if inflammation has decreased, your doctor may view the inner lining of your colon by doing a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

In addition to inflammation, your doctor will want to know how your symptoms are improving.

Are these symptoms improving with treatment?

  • Cramping/abdominal pain
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding and/or blood in the stool
  • Urgency to have a bowel movement
  • Mucus in the stool

Don’t put up with UC symptoms

Hopefully you now understand that the goals of your treatment should be to achieve and maintain UC remission.

Unfortunately, many patients mistakenly believe that UC flares are just something they have to live with. If you think you should be feeling better with fewer UC flares per year, be sure to bring it up at your next visit with your gastroenterologist.