Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation disease. It is one of the two main forms of Inflammable bowel diseases (IBD). It occurs in the inner lining of the rectum and colon (the large bowel). If you have ulcerative colitis, your rectum and colon might develop tiny ulcers that can bleed and produce pus.
Most cases of ulcerative colitis start appearing in the rectum and lower colon, but it may affect the entire colon. If ulcerative colitis only affects the rectum, it is called proctitis, while if it affects the whole colon it may be called total colitis or pancolitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease. However, there might be a period of intermission, which means your condition may go away for some time (remission), then the symptoms would come back (relapses or flare-ups).
Ulcerative colitis occurs most often in people ages 15 to 30, although the disease may afflict people of any age. It affects men and women equally and appears to run in some families. Strangely, smoking seems to reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
If you experience a flare-up, you might have bloody diarrhea and abdominal pain. You also may experience fever, rectal bleeding, fatigue, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss and loss of body fluids and nutrients resulting in nutritional deficiencies.
In severe cases, you might have bowel movements many times a day. You also may develop other symptoms:
- Shortness of breath;
- A fast or irregular heartbeat;
- A high temperature (fever);
- Blood in your stools becoming more obvious.
The condition might affect other parts of the body as well:
- Painful and swollen joints (arthritis);
- Mouth ulcers;
- Areas of painful, red and swollen skin;
- Irritated and red eyes.
Ulcerative colitis may cause long-term problems such as arthritis, inflammation of the eye, liver disease (fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis), osteoporosis, skin rashes, anaemia and kidney stones. Nevertheless, these problems can go away if ulcerative colitis is cured.
What are the causes of ulcerative colitis?
The cause for ulcerative colitis flare-ups is unknown. Some people believe that environmental, dietary or infectious agent that causes an inflammation in the gut can trigger a flare-up. Viruses have been found in the bowel of people with ulcerative colitis. But there is no clear connection between these viruses to the condition.
Like most inflammation diseases, ulcerative colitis may result from an abnormality in the intestines. Instead of protecting the colon and rectum, your body immune system attacks these cells and cause inflammation. These attacks can last for a long time.
Psychological reasons, such as stress, cannot cause ulcerative colitis, but the can make symptoms more severe and lead to more frequent relapse.
Who are more at risk of ulcerative colitis?
If you have these factors, you are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis:
- Age: It can affect people at any age, but usually appear between 15 and 25.
- Ethnicity: Ulcerative colitis is rare in Asian people. It is more common in European and African.
- Family history: A mutation in a gene is thought to cause abnormal immune system. If someone in your family has the condition, you have a higher risk than other people.
Ulcerative colitis appears more frequently in non-smokers and ex-smokers than in smokers. Despite this, you should not smoke as a way to treat ulcerative colitis.
What is the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis?
Tests to diagnose ulcerative colitis include:
- Stool test: a doctor examines your stool for blood, bacteria, and parasites.
- Endoscopy: a doctor uses a flexible tube to examine the stomach, esophagus, and small intestine.
- Colonoscopy: a diagnostic test that involves insertion of a long, flexible tube into the rectum to examine the inside of the colon.
- Biopsy: a surgeon removes a tissue sample from the colon.
- Barium enema: x-rays are taken of your colon and rectum, using barium to provide contrast.
What are the treatments for ulcerative colitis?
Treatment for ulcerative colitis aims to relieve symptoms during a flare-up and prevent symptoms from returning. If you can find what trigger an episode of a flare-up, you should be able to avoid symptoms by avoiding these foods. The symptoms in each person are different, so the treatment will be adjusted accordingly. Both medicine and surgery can be used to treat the condition.
In most people, this is achieved by taking medication such as:
- Aminosalicylates (ASAS);
- Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®);
- Mesalamine (Asacol® and Lialda®);
- Balsalazide (Colazal®);
- Olsalazine (Dipentum®).
Medicines are used for mild and moderate symptoms for the patients to use at home. However, more serious cases need to have surgery to remove the infected colon. Severe ulcers can stretch the colon and develop a hole in the bowel.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: September 10, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017
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