Ulcerative colitis drugs are designed to reduce inflammation in the colon. They decrease your symptoms and help keep your colitis under control for as long as possible. Every medication has its benefits, from providing symptom relief to putting the disease into remission. Unfortunately every drug also comes with certain health risks that are worse than the medications expected side effects.
Drugs for ulcerative colitis affect your body’s immune system to prevent the inflammation that causes the disease. Once your immune system is weakened, it doesn’t function the same way it used to, making you more prone to infection. Some of the medications may cause other complications that you should be familiar with. The information below can help you make wiser decisions for your long-term health and treatment.
Mesalamine: Has been known to cause kidney problems. According to some studies, people with kidney disease should carefully weigh this option with their doctor. Inflammation of the pancreas is rare but a possible side effect of using this drug. If you are a patient taking Melamine you should drink plenty of water daily to flush the kidneys.
Prednisone: Has been known to be a useful medication for reducing inflammation, unfortunately it also compromises your immune system. That means it reduces your body’s ability to protect itself from bacteria and viruses, making you more sensitive to disease. Long-term risks of this class of drug depend on both the dose given as well as the length of time a patient has been on the medication. Among the most serious health risks of corticosteroids are the development of osteoporosis (loss of calcium in your bones, leading to possible fractures), high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased risk of infection, cataracts, and weight gain; you’ll need to be monitored for all these conditions while taking steroids. To counter the risk of osteoporosis, your doctor may have you take calcium and vitamin D supplements, or prescription medications that stop or reverse bone loss. Because corticosteroids cause your body to stop making cortisol, these drugs cannot be abruptly stopped after a long period of time; you have to slowly taper them so your body has time to ramp up its natural cortisol production. Also, 30 to 40 percent of ulcerative colitis patients become physically dependent on corticosteroids and cannot stop taking them without having flare-ups.
Imuran: Liver, kidney, and bone marrow functions can be damaged by any of the immunomodulators, and your doctor should perform regular blood tests to check for signs of all of these conditions. Health risks include hepatitis, lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), tremors, and tingling in the extremities. With cyclosporine A and tacrolimus in particular, high blood pressure is another risk, and should be checked out regularly.
Remicade & Humira: Because of their strength against your immune system, biologics can cause your health to be in a more vulnerable position. Potential health risks include serious infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract. Tuberculosis (TB), fungal infections, and sepsis, a very dangerous infection of the blood, have been related to using biologics. Infliximab doesn’t cause TB, but can allow a dormant, possibly unrecognized infection to become active if you have previously been exposed to the disease. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America recommends patients get tested for TB before beginning treatment with infliximab. Let your doctor know right away if you develop any infection, or infection- or flu-like symptoms such as fever and exhaustion. Although rare, cases of lymphoma have been associated with this therapy. As you evaluate the benefits and risks of these medications, remember that you may need to try a few different drugs before finding what works best for you, and during the course of your illness you may very well switch from one drug to another, or take them in new combinations. Be sure to communicate with your doctor about any concerns you have regarding your treatment plan. By working together, you will continue to fine-tune the ulcerative colitis treatments that work for you.