Ulcerative colitisis is a condition that affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. It is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes lifelong inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Symptoms do not appear suddenly, but rather develop over time.
Ulcerative colitis has no cure. The condition can be incapacitating and can sometimes lead to deadly complications. Treatment can greatly reduce signs and symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of Ulcerative colitisis
Symptoms of Ulcerative colitis can vary, depending on the degree of inflammation and where it occurs. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Rectal pain
- Urgent need to pass out stool
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal bleeding — passing small amount of blood with stool
- Inability to defecate despite urgency
- Weight loss
- In children, failure to grow
Types of Ulcerative colitisis
Ulcerative colitis is usually classified according to its location. Types of ulcerative colitis include:
- Ulcerative proctitis. Inflammation is close to the anus (rectum), and rectal bleeding may be the only sign of the disease.
- Inflammation involves the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower end of the colon). Symptoms may include abdominal pains, bloody diarrhea, and failure to move the bowels in spite of the urge (tenesmus).
- Left-sided colitis. Inflammation spread from the rectum up through the sigmoid and descending colon. Symptoms may include left-sided abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and unintended weight loss.
- This type often affects the whole colon and causes bouts of bloody diarrhea that may be severe, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue, and weight loss.
- Acute severe ulcerative colitis. This type is rare and affects the entire colon. It causes profuse diarrhea, fever, bleeding, inability to eat, and severe pain.
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Causes of Ulcerative colitisis
Earlier, doctors suspected diet and stress to be responsible for ulcerative colitis. However, the exact cause of the condition remains unknown because stress and diet only aggravate but don’t cause ulcerative colitis.
However, according to experts, one possible cause is an immune system malfunction. When your immune system tries to fight off an attacking virus or bacterium, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too.
Apart from immune system, heredity also seems to play a part in ulcerative colitis because people who have family members with the disease mostly end up having the disease. However, most people with ulcerative colitis don’t have this family history.
Risk factors may include:
- Race or ethnicity.It can occur in any race, although whites have the highest risk of the disease. Those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have higher risk of developing the disease.
- Ulcerative colitis usually begins before the age of 30. But, it can occur at any age, and some people may not develop the disease until after age 60.
- Family history.People with a family history of the disease also have a higher risk.
When to see a doctor
Consult your doctor if you have symptoms such as:
- Blood in your stool
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained fatigue lasting more than two days
- Ongoing diarrhea that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications
- Diarrhea that wakes you from sleep
Although ulcerative colitis usually isn’t fatal, it’s a serious disease that, in some cases, may cause life-threatening complications.
Possible complications of ulcerative colitis include:
- An increased risk of colon cancer
- Severe bleeding
- A hole in the colon
- Increased risk of blood clots in veins and arteries
- Severe dehydration
- Liver disease
- Inflammation of your skin, joints and eyes
- A rapidly swelling colon
Your doctor will rule out other possible causes for your symptoms before diagnosis ulcerative colitis. To help confirm a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, you may have one or more of the following tests and procedures such as:
- Stool sample
- Blood tests
- CT scan
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Ulcerative colitis treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery. The type of drugs prescribed by your doctor to treat ulcerative colitisis will depend on the severity of your condition. The drugs that work well for some people may not work for others, so it may take time to find a medication that helps you.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first step in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. They include:
- 5-aminosalicylates.Examples of this type of medication include sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), mesalamine (Asacol HD, Delzicol, others), balsalazide (Colazal) and olsalazine (Dipentum). Which one you take, and whether it is taken by mouth or as an enema or suppository, depends on the area of your colon that’s affected.
- These drugs, which include prednisone and hydrocortisone, are generally reserved for moderate to severe ulcerative colitis that doesn’t respond to other treatments. Due to the side effects, they are not usually given long term.
Immune system suppressors
These drugs also reduce inflammation, but they do so by suppressing the immune system response that starts the process of inflammation. For some people, a combination of these drugs works better.
You may need additional medications such as antibiotics, pain relievers, anti-diarrheal drugs, and iron supplements to manage specific symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Surgery to treat ulcerative colitis may involves a procedure called ileal pouch anal anastomosis which may remove your entire colon and rectum (proctocolectomy).
This procedure abolishes the need to wear a bag to collect stool. Your surgeon constructs a pouch from the end of your small intestine. The pouch is then attached directly to your anus, allowing you to expel waste relatively normally.
Article source: mayoclinic.org
Image source: franciscanhealth.org
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