Biologic Therapy to Treat Ulcerative Colitis: How These Medications Work

This option is a game-changer for those with severe UC.

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At any given time, about half of people with ulcerative colitis (UC) are in remission (a period of no symptoms), according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. A big part of that success can be attributed to the improvement of treatment options for UC.

One of the newer and remarkable treatment options is biologic therapy. Biologics get their name because they are made from natural life materials, as opposed to chemicals. Compared to other medications for inflammatory bowel diseases, biologics are able to target causes of inflammation more precisely.

Biologics are not necessary for the significant portion of people in remission. About 15 percent of individuals with UC have severe symptoms, and 30 percent of them need a colectomy (the removal of the colon), according to a 2015 study in Gut and Liver journal. These are the people who have not found treatment success with other traditional treatments, and they may benefit from biologic therapy.

How Biologics Treat Ulcerative Colitis

Biologics are lab-grown antibodies that work to block certain proteins that are known to create inflammation. Different versions of biologics work in slightly different ways.

Anti-TNF biologics bind to and block a protein known as TNF-alpha, or tumor necrosis factor alpha. These proteins create inflammation during the immune response.

Anti-TNF biologics have two crucial benefits for people with UC: They reduce UC symptoms, and they help heal the inflamed lining of the intestine. That means they can help achieve and maintain remission, and also help prevent complications of UC.

Whatever type of treatment your doctor prescribes for UC, a major factor for how successful it will be is your commitment. Taking your medications as directed and attending doctor appointments can keep flares at bay and maintain remission. Learn more about UC treatment during remission.