Overview of Ulcerative Colitis

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Inflammatory bowel disease can be very debilitating, and the two most common types are Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Only the colon and the rectum are affected by ulcerative colitis, but Crohn’s disease can appear in any area within the digestive system. See the separate topic about Crohn’s disease in order to learn more about it.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a malady that results in sores, or ulcers, and inflammation in the large intestinal lining. The large intestine is also called the colon. The disease is usually present in the lower section of the large intestine, also called the sigmoid colon, and the rectum. In more serious cases the entire colon can be involved. The more area of the colon that the disease involves, the more serious will be the symptoms. People of any age can exhibit the disease, but most people who are afflicted with the disease are diagnosed before they reach the age of 30 years old.

 

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What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

While experts are not exactly sure what causes ulcerative colitis, they suspect that  the cause might be the result of our immune system over reacting to the normal bacteria in the digestive system, or that it even might be caused by other kinds of bacteria and viruses in the system. There is also a more pronounced tendency to contract the disease, if other members of your family have suffered from it.

What Are The Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms?

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramps and pain in the belly area
  • Bleeding from the rectum

Additional symptoms may include fever, lack of hunger, and some people may lose weight. In very severe cases, diarrhea may occur very often, as much as 10 to 20 times per day.  Eye problems, pain in the joints, and liver disease can also be indicative of the disease.

The symptoms can come and go with most people. And the disease may go into remission for months, or even years with no symptoms. Then it can flare up and reoccur again. Roughly 5 to 10 percent of the sufferers of ulcerative colitis will have the symptoms on a constant basis.  Click here to learn more about ulcerative colitis symptoms.

How Is The Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis Determined?

Doctors will inquire about the symptoms, perform a physical exam, as well as performing tests. Other problems, such as Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome that can cause similar symptoms can be ruled out by the testing.

The testing that can be performed include:

  • A colonoscopy. A thin, lighted tool is used by the doctor in this test, to view the inside of the whole colon area. A biopsy may also be taken at the same time of the lining of the colon.
  • Blood samples can be taken to look for any inflammation or infection.
  • A stool sample can be taken to determine if there any white blood cells, blood, or infection present.

What Is The Ulcerative Colitis Treatment?

There are different symptoms for each individual, and the doctor will be instrumental in determining what treatments will reduce the symptoms and assist in avoiding more flare-ups in the future. For mild symptoms, medicines that are over-the-counter, such as Imodium can be taken. Before taking any medication, you should speak to your doctor.

For symptoms that are more severe, prescriptions such as aminosalicylates and steroids may be prescribed in order to reduce the immune response of the body. Symptoms and flare-ups can be reduced by these medications.

Certain foods may cause flare-ups in some people. If this is what is happening to you, be sure to avoid the foods that cause the problem, but continue to eat a health diet with foods that you can tolerate.

If you continue to suffer from symptoms of the disease that are severe, and medication doesn’t help, you may need surgery, and have your colon removed, which will cure ulcerative colitis, and will also prevent colon cancer.

How Will Your Life Be Affected By Ulcerative Colitis?

The longer that you have ulcerative colitis, the greater your chances are of contracting cancer of the colon. The odds increase very much for anyone who has the disease for 8 years or longer. Be sure to have a good relationship with your doctor in this area and discuss the need for cancer screening. It is much better to find and treat the cancer, if it occurs, when it is in the early stages.

Ulcerative colitis can be difficult to deal with, as you seem to be running to the bathroom all of the time. Since you don’t always know in advance when you will have to go, it can be embarrassing and stressful. If you are having a difficult time with this, counseling is available and you can seek support from family and friends. It can be very helpful to be able to talk about this with others.

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