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Ulcerative colitis - discharge

You were in the hospital to treat ulcerative colitis. This is a swelling (inflammation) of the inner lining of your colon and rectum (also called your large intestine). This article tells you how to take care of yourself when you return home.

When You're in the Hospital

You were in the hospital because you have ulcerative colitis. This is a swelling of the inner lining of your colon and rectum (also called your large intestine). It damages the lining, causing it to bleed or ooze mucus or pus.

You probably received fluids through an intravenous (IV) tube in your vein. You may have received a blood transfusion, nutrition through a feeding tube or IV, and medicines to help stop diarrhea. You may have been given medicines to reduce swelling, prevent or fight infection, or help your immune system.

You may have undergone a colonoscopy. You also may have had surgery. If so, you may have had either an ileostomy or colon resection (colectomy).

What to Expect at Home

Most people will have long breaks between flare-ups of their ulcerative colitis if they take their prescribed medicines.

Self-care

When you first go home, you will need to drink only liquids or eat different foods from what you normally eat. Ask your health care provider when you can start your regular diet. You should eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. It is important that you get enough calories, protein, and nutrients from a variety of food groups.

Certain foods and drinks can make your symptoms worse. These foods may cause problems for you all the time or only during a flare-up. Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse.

  • Too much fiber may make your symptoms worse. Try baking or stewing fruits and vegetables if eating them raw bothers you.
  • Avoid foods that are known to cause gas, such as beans, spicy food, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, raw fruit juices, and fruit (especially citrus fruits). Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine. They may make your diarrhea worse.

Eat smaller meals, and eat more often. Drink plenty of liquids.

Ask your provider about extra vitamins and minerals you may need, including:

  • Iron supplements (if you are anemic)
  • Nutrition supplements
  • Calcium and vitamin D supplements to help keep your bones strong

Talk with a dietitian, especially if you lose weight or your diet becomes very limited.

Stress

You may feel worried about having a bowel accident, embarrassed, or even feel sad or depressed. Other stressful events in your life, such as moving, job loss, or the loss of a loved one, can cause problems with your digestion.

These tips may help you manage your ulcerative colitis:

  • Join a support group. Ask your provider about groups in your area.
  • Exercise. Talk with your provider about an exercise plan that is right for you.
  • Try biofeedback to reduce muscle tension and slow your heart rate, deep breathing exercises, hypnosis, or other ways to relax. Examples include doing yoga, listening to music, reading, or soaking in a warm bath.
  • See a mental health care provider for help.

Drug Treatments

Your provider may give you some medicines to help relieve your symptoms. Based on how severe your ulcerative colitis is and how you respond to treatment, you may need to take one or more of these medicines:

  • Anti-diarrhea drugs can help when you have very bad diarrhea. You can buy loperamide (Imodium) without a prescription. Always talk to your provider before using these drugs.
  • Fiber supplements may help your symptoms. You can buy psyllium powder (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel) without a prescription.
  • Always talk to your provider before using any laxative medicines.
  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) for mild pain. Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) may make your symptoms worse. Talk to your provider before taking these medicines. You may also need a prescription for stronger pain medicines.

There are many types of drugs your provider may use to prevent or treat attacks of your ulcerative colitis.

Follow-up

Your ongoing care will be based on your needs. Your provider will tell you when to return for an exam of the inside of your rectum and colon through a flexible tube (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy).

When to Call the Doctor

Call your provider if you have:

  • Cramps or pain in your lower stomach area
  • Bloody diarrhea, often with mucus or pus
  • Diarrhea that cannot be controlled with diet changes and drugs
  • Rectal bleeding, drainage, or sores
  • Fever that lasts more than 2 or 3 days, or a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C) without an explanation
  • Nausea and vomiting that lasts more than a day
  • Skin sores or lesions that do not heal
  • Joint pain that keeps you from doing your everyday activities
  • A feeling of having little warning before you need to have a bowel movement
  • A need to wake up from sleeping to have a bowel movement
  • Failure to gain weight, a concern for a growing infant or child
  • Side effects from any drugs prescribed for your condition

Alternative Names

Inflammatory bowel disease - discharge; Ulcerative proctitis - discharge; Colitis - discharge

References

Ananthakrishnan AN, Reguerio MD. Management of inflammatory bowel disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 116.

Feuerstein JD, Isaacs KL, Schneider Y, Siddique SM, Falck-Ytter Y, Singh S; AGA Institute Clinical Guidelines Committee. AGA Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Management of Moderate to Severe Ulcerative Colitis. Gastroenterology. 2020;158(5):1450-1461. PMID: 31945371 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31945371/.

Rezapour M, Avalos D, Damas OM. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2021. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier 2021:23-237.

Rojas-Khalil Y, Galadiuk S. The management of chronic ulcerative colitis. In: Cameron AM, Cameron JL, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:173-180.

Review Date 11/2/2020

Updated by: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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