Know the basics
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease that causes ulcers in the lining of digestive tract. Irritation from fluids help resolve food in small intestine, large intestine which can lead to ulcers spread. Such ulcers occasionally bleed, generate pus or mucus. Fluid in digestive tract goes into large intestine. The large intestine often needs to be emptied frequently, resulting in diarrhea.
How common is ulcerative colitis?
UC affects men and women equally and it seems to have a genetic nature. Those are aged 15 to 35 and often affected by the disease. Most people will have UC lifetime. About half of patients have mild symptoms. Others have more severe pain and more frequent.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
The most common symptoms are abdominal pain and diarrhea, bloody stool and mucus. Going to the toilet can relieve pain in left side of the abdomen. When UC progress worsening, diarrhea increases and frequent throughout the day. Remission may occur, but over 75% of patients will relapse.
Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, anorexia and fever. These outside symptoms influence on colon including joint pain, usually in the knees, ankles and wrists. These eye problems can also occur. Complications include severe bleeding, intestinal perforation, hypertrophic colon (colon to stretch) and peritonitis. People with ulcerative colitis are also at greater risk of colon cancer.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Fever or chills, increasing stool frequency or bleeding.
- Abdominal distention, pain or start vomiting.
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes ulcerative colitis?
The cause has not been determined. Previously, people suspect to diet and stress but currently, doctors know that these factors can aggravate but it is not the cause of ulcerative colitis.
Another possible cause is dysfunction in the immune system. When immune system fights against invading viruses or bacteria, abnormal immune response causes the immune system attack cells of the digestive system.
Genetic factors seem to play a role in ulcerative colitis because the disease is more common in people who have family members experienced the disease. However, most patients have no family history.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for ulcerative colitis?
There are many risk factors for this disease such as:
- Age: ulcerative colitis usually begins before the age of 30. However, it can occur at any age, and some people may not develop the disease until age 60.
- Race: though whites have the highest risk of infection, but the disease can occur in any race. If you are an Ashkenazi Jew, this risk is even higher.
- Family history: Your risk is higher if you have a relative, as a parent, sibling or child, has the disease.
- Using isotretinoin: isotretinoin (Amnesteem, Claravis, Sotret; formerly Accutane) is a drug which is sometimes used to treat acne scars or acne. Some studies show that it is a risk factor for UC, but a clear link between ulcerative colitis and isotretinoin has not been determined.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will review your family history and physical exam. Your doctor will take blood samples and stool samples to check for bleeding and infections. UC is diagnosed by endoscopy identified. In this procedure, a flexible tube with a lamp put into the rectum to view the rectum and lower part of the colon. Colon tissue sample is removed and observed with a microscope.
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms, control inflammation and prevent complications.
The main medications used for treating ulcerative colitis are inflammatory drugs, including mesalamine, sulfasalazine, olsalazine and steroids. Mesalamine is used to maintain remission of disease and control mild or moderate symptoms not to flare up. The severe symptoms may require hospitalization, so let bowel rest (not eating) and use intravenously.
Approximately 25% of patients require surgery when medications do not work or the disease becomes serious. Surgery includes removing part of the colon.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage ulcerative colitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this disease:
- Use medications as directed by your doctor.
- Ask your doctor if you can use vitamin, mineral supplements or iron tablets.
- Try to maintain normal physical activity.
- See your doctor regularly. Colonoscopy is important to periodically monitor to prevent the disease from progressing to cancer.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 341.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 172.
Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017