Ulcerative colitis is a disease that affects the colon which causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) that produce pus and mucus. This can cause stomach discomfort and diarrhea. While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, the team of expert gastroenterologists at UVM Medical Center will recommend a personalized treatment plan to reduce symptoms and bring remission.
Ulcerative Colitis Care at UVM Medical Center
At the UVM Medical Center, we have a team of gastroenterologists who work together to provide advanced, personalized care. Our doctors are trained in the latest technology to diagnose and treat ulcerative colitis.
Each patient is unique, therefore our recommended treatment plans will be designed specifically for you. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of your ulcerative colitis and your preferences. When you receive care at the UVM Medical Center, you will be seen & treated by some of the best doctors in the area.
Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis
The most important part of the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis involves a colonoscopy with biopsies. The colonic biopsies are analyzed and interpreted by a team of fellowship-trained pathologists. The experience of this team means we can confidently provide you with an accurate diagnosis.
The diagnostic process begins with a comprehensive physical exam. Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms, review your medical history and use any of the following tests:
- Colonoscopy - a colonoscopy is a type of endoscopic procedure where your doctor uses a colonoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera) to see your colon. When a colonoscopy is needed, here’s what you can expect:
- You will need to closely follow pre-procedure instructions to cleanse your colon before the procedure.
- During the procedure, your doctor may give you a sedative to make you comfortable while he or she performs the procedure.
- The colonoscopy allows for a direct visual examination of the rectum and colon for signs of inflammation.
- Your doctor may also take a small sample of tissue (biopsy) to be analyzed by the lab.
- Biopsy - often during the colonoscopy, a biopsy may be performed. A biopsy is the painless removal of a small sample of tissue from your colon. This tissue is then sent to our expert pathologists for analysis and interpretation in an attempt to provide a definitive diagnosis.
- Blood Tests - blood tests are often used to look for signs of anemia and infections, electrolyte and kidney function and nutritional status.
- Stool Studies - a stool sample is analyzed for the presence of tiny amounts of blood.
- Radiologic Studies - imaging tests such as X-rays, computed tomography (CT or CAT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Treatments for Ulcerative Colitis
Once a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is confirmed, we’ll work with you tailor an effective treatment plan that can include medication, surgery and nutrition management. The goal of treatment is to dramatically reduce the symptoms and bring about long-term remission. Your personalized treatment plan will depend on the severity of your symptoms. Treatments include:
- Medication - there are a variety of different medications that can be prescribed to help control symptoms of ulcerative colitis. These medications can include:
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Immune system suppressors - medications which reduce inflammation by targeting the immune system to prevent it from attacking your bowels
- Other medications, including probiotics
- Surgery - if medications do not offer sufficient relief, then surgery may be an option for you. Surgery for ulcerative colitis is usually a colectomy, a procedure to remove all or part of your colon. There are two options for this type of procedure, including:
- Ileostomy - once your colon and rectum have been removed, waste can no longer leave your body. Instead, contents of your digestive system exit the body through a stoma. A bag or pouch is custom fit to the stoma which then collects the waste and is emptied as necessary.
- Sphincter-Preservation Surgery - during this procedure, a new rectum is created by using a portion of your small bowel. This preserves the bowel function. Some patients who have this surgery may experience incontinence and a disruption in sexual function.
- Nutrition Management - a proper diet is a critical part of your ongoing care. Our registered dietitians will work with you to create a well-balanced diet, avoiding food that may trigger symptoms and ensuring you receive the necessary nutrients.