Trying to stay on top of all of the newest UC treatment options can be daunting. With studies, research trials, and drug releases frequently happening, it can be overwhelming when you’re facing the idea of changing your UC medications.
But if the medication you’re currently on isn’t working as well as it should, it might be time to talk to your doctor. Read on for helpful questions to ask your doctor to get that conversation started.
What should I expect from my medication?
There’s no known nonsurgical cure for UC, and no medication will completely get rid of the condition. But one study concluded that, if given the choice, 86.4 percent of people with UC would rather try a new medication than have surgery to remove their colon.
There are many medications that can help you achieve and maintain remission. Before you talk to your doctor, identify what will make a medication right for you.
- Am I concerned about any side effects more than others (e.g., infection or weight gain)?
- Am I concerned about the cost of the medication?
- Am I worried about any preexisting ailments (e.g., migraines, heart issues, cancer)?
- Have I given my current medication a chance to work?
- Do I want to get pregnant or breastfeed?
- Am I worried about male fertility?
- Am I taking any vitamins and supplements that I should mention?
- Am I prepared to take a medication or combination of medications long term?
With this information in mind, your doctor will then be in a better position to suggest a medication that is right for you.
When do I know if it’s time to switch medication?
It’s often hard to know when your medication needs adjusting because there are so many outside factors to consider.
For instance, your medication might be helping you remain in UC remission, but the side effects could be problematic. Or you might’ve had a long period of remission, decided to stop taking your medications, and now need a new prescription due to a flare-up.
If you begin to have more frequent flare-ups or your UC symptoms are getting worse, it’s time to have a chat with your doctor about making a switch.
What are my medication options?
There are many drug therapies to consider when dealing with UC. Most medications fall within the following categories:
- Tofacitinib (Xeljanz). This is a newer option in a class of medications called Janus kinase inhibitors. It works in a unique way to reduce inflammation in people with moderate-to-severe ulcerative colitis.
- Aminosalicylates. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that are used to treat mild to moderate flare-ups of UC. They are seen as the first line of defense for UC.
- Immune system suppressors or immunomodulators. These medications are able to reduce inflammation in the body by suppressing the immune system. They are used to treat moderate to severe cases of UC.
- Biologics. These medications work to stop enzymes and proteins that develop naturally in your body from causing inflammation. They are used to treat moderate to severe cases of UC.
- Corticosteroids. These medications affect the body’s natural inflammatory process. They’re primarily used for short-term treatment of emergency flare-ups.
What are some tips to help me manage my medication change?
In the beginning weeks of taking your new medication, your doctor might recommend that you create a daily medication log or use a health tracker. This will help you keep track of both benefits and side effects that you’re experiencing from the treatment.
Your doctor can also give you tips to help you stay on track with your new medication. These might include:
- Take the medication correctly. This sounds easy, but many people get into the habit of missing medications and taking them at the wrong time.
- Don’t increase or decrease a dose without talking to your doctor first.
- Use the same pharmacy to fill your prescription every time. Developing a rapport with your pharmacist is very important as they might catch patterns you miss.
- Avoid expired medication.
- Don’t take anyone else’s medications, even in a pinch.
Your doctor is a key mediator between you and your UC. Answering your questions is part of their job.
If you’re concerned about making a switch to a different medication, jot down the list of concerns that you’re most worried about. You can also join helpful online groups that can be a safe space to discuss medications and their effects. Finally, do your research on UC and gather any questions you may have for your doctor to help prepare you for your next appointment.