In ulcerative colitis, your large intestine or colon is inflamed. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. Crohn's disease is also an inflammatory bowel disease, but there is a difference between the two. In Crohn's disease, any portion of the gastrointestinal tract can be affected including all layers of the bowel wall. In ulcerative colitis, only the lining of the colon is affected. The causes of ulcerative colitis are still unknown. Crampy abdominal pain, Intermittent rectal bleeding, and diarrhoea are some of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis do not arise suddenly but develop over time. You should reach out to the best doctor as soon as you discover that you are suffering from ulcerative colitis. Long-standing ulcerative colitis can lead to colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis can be treated with the medicines and surgery. Due to ulcerative colitis, you may also suffer from inflammation in joints, skin, spine, eyes, and the liver and its bile ducts. Women and men are equally prone to this disease.
The signs of ulcerative colitis may vary as per the extent of inflammation and the location of the inflammation. Generally, people suffer from moderate to mild symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The duration of this disease vary from person to person, some people may long-standing ulcerative colitis. Check out the various signs or symptoms of ulcerative colitis:
- People suffering from ulcerative colitis have sudden urges to empty their colon right away.
- People mostly feel that their colon is not empty even after use of the bathroom. They make wake up many times at night to go to the bathroom.
- People may feel pain in the eye when they look at a bright light.
- People may suffer from anaemia in which blood cell are too few.
- In ulcerative colitis, people are generally not able to hold their stools in.
- Bloody diarrhoea is the main symptom of ulcerative colitis.
- People with ulcerative colitis may have pus in their stools.
- Most of the time people feel tired and pain in the joints.
- People feel crampy pain in their belly.
- Not feeling hungry, loss of weight, fever, and dehydration are some of the other symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
- Canker sores and skin sores are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Nobody knows the exact cause of ulcerative colitis. In the earlier time, it was considered that diet and stress are the causes. But, diet and stress can aggravate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis but do not lead to ulcerative colitis.
- Ulcerative colitis generally occurs when the immune system makes a mistake.
- Whenever a bacteria or a virus attacks the body, the immune system fights off. Due to an unusual and aberrant immune system, the immune system attacks the cells in the digestive tract as well.
- Heredity plays an important role in spreading the disease. If a person in a family has this disease then it is more likely that others will have it too. This disease is hereditary. However, it is not necessary.
As soon as you experience any or some of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, you should reach out to the best doctor for the diagnosis. Your doctor will probably find out the possible causes depending on your signs or symptoms. In order to have a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, your doctor may conduct various tests:
- Blood tests: Blood tests are done to check the anaemia and signs of infection in patients. Anaemia is a medical condition in which the count of red cell or haemoglobin is less than required.
- Stool sample: A stool sample is taken for the count of white cells in the blood which can help to diagnose ulcerative colitis. A stool sample is also used for finding out various disorders like infection caused by viruses, parasites and bacteria.
- Colonoscopy: In colonoscopy or colposcopy, your doctor uses a long, flexible, tubular instrument with an attached camera. It allows the doctor to view your entire colon. During the examination, your doctor may take the small samples of tissue (biopsy) for the analysis in the laboratory. Sometimes, samples of tissues can help to confirm the diagnosis.
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy: In flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor uses a slender, lighted, flexible tube to do the examination of colon’s last portion including the rectum and sigmoid. If your doctor finds out that your colon has severe inflammation then he will conduct this test in place of a colonoscopy.
- X-ray: If it is found that you are suffering from the severe symptoms of ulcerative colitis then your physician may do an X-ray of the abdomen. This X-ray is done to find out complications associated with ulcerative colitis including a perforated colon.
- CT scan: Your doctor may conduct a CT scan of the stomach or pelvis if he or she suspects a problem or complication due to ulcerative colitis. This can also tell about the extent of inflammation in the colon.
- Computerized tomography enterography and magnetic resonance enterography: The doctor usually suggests one of the noninvasive tests including computerized tomography (CT) enterography and magnetic resonance (MR) enterography if he wants to remove any inflammation developing in the small intestine. Unlike conventional imaging tests, such tests are way more sensitive in finding inflammation in the bowel. An option is MR enterography. It is radiation-free unlike, CT enterography.
It is not possible to prevent ulcerative colitis but you can reduce the risk of this disease. You can reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis by following a healthy lifestyle. Check out the various ways that will help you to reduce the risk of ulcerative colitis:
- You should avoid certain food items including dairy products, cabbage, broccoli, beans, spicy foods, and more.
- Due to high stress, your stomach may empty more slowly and produce more acid. That is why you should practice relaxation and breathing techniques in order to relax whenever you are under stress.
- You should drink plenty of liquids. Nothing could be better than water. You should not drink alcohol and beverages containing caffeine.
- If you are losing weight or your diet has become very limited then you should book an appointment with the dietician.
- You should increase the intake of those food items that contain dietary fibre.
- You should have small and frequent meals.
- You should do the physical exercises daily.
The treatment for Ulcerative colitis includes either drug therapy or surgery.
There are different kinds of drugs that are used in the treatment of Ulcerative colitis. The type of the drugs you take depends on the extremity of your condition of the disease. Some drugs that work for one person may not work for the other person. So it takes some time to find the right medication that works for you and helps you in treating the disease. Also, some of the drugs have severe side-effects so you will have to keep in mind the pros and cons of any treatment or drug you choose.
Anti-inflammatory drugs are often recommended by the doctors initially for the treatment of ulcerative colitis. They include:
- 5-aminosalicylates : The examples of 5-aminosalicylates drugs include mesalamine (Delzicol, Asacol HD, and others), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), olsalazine (Dipentum) and balsalazide (Colazal). It can be taken by mouth or as a suppository or enema, which relies on the area of the colon that's inflamed by the disease.
- Corticosteroids : Corticosteroids drugs are often used in the cases which are moderate to serious ulcerative colitis and those which doesn’t respond to all other means of treatment. These drugs include prednisone and hydrocortisone. They are often not used in long term due to their severe and chronic side effects.
- Drugs that suppress the immune system: These medications suppress the response of an immune system which starts the inflammation process which in turn reduces inflammation. Some people often use a combination of these medicines as for some the combination works better than one medicine alone. Immunosuppressant medicines include:
- Mercaptopurine (Purixan, Purinethol) and Azathioprine (Imuran, Azasan): These drugs are the most widely used drugs for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. If you take these drugs then you must closely consult with your doctor and have your blood checked regularly to check for side effects, including effects on the liver and pancreas.
- Cyclosporine (Gengraf, Neoral, Sandimmune): This drug is normally used for the people who don’t respond properly to other medications. Cyclosporine can cause serious side effects and due to this is not used for long-term.
- Infliximab (Remicade), adalimumab (Humira) and golimumab (Simponi): These drugs, called tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, or biologics. These work by neutralizing a protein produced by the immune system. These are used for people with severe ulcerative colitis and who don't respond to or can't go through other treatments.
- Vedolizumab (Entyvio): This most recent approved medication for treatment of ulcerative colitis is Vedolizumab. This is for use for people who don't respond to or can't go through other treatments. It often works by inhibiting the inflammatory cells from reaching the location of the inflammation.
A person may require some supplementary medications to direct specific symptoms of ulcerative colitis. You should always consult your doctor before using medications which he/she didn't prescribe. He or she may suggest one or more of the following.
- Antibiotics. Used to control fever and infection
- Anti-diarrheal medications. Used in case of diarrhoea, loperamide (Imodium) is recommended. These medications can cause toxic megacolon (enlarged colon). So they must be used with caution.
- Pain relievers and Iron supplements.
Surgery can be used to remove ulcerative colitis. For this entire colon and rectum are removed (proctocolectomy). This surgery often involves a procedure called ileal pouch-anal anastomosis. This procedure saves you from wearing a bag to collect your stool. In this procedure, the surgeon makes a sac/pouch from the end of your small intestine. The makeshift pouch is then fixed directly to the area of your anus, which gives you the freedom to expel waste relatively normally than by wearing a bag to collect the stool. In some cases, the pouch can’t be made. To overcome this problem, surgeons make a permanent hole/opening in your abdomen (ileal stoma) through which stool can be passed which collects in a supplementary bag which is already attached.
Due to increased risk in the colon, you may require screening a number of times. The treatment depends on the site at which the disease occurs and for how long have you had that disease.
If your disease concerns the area more than that of your rectum, you need to get surveillance colonoscopy every one or two years. If your disease has been diagnosed then you need to get a surveillance colonoscopy within eight years if most part of your colon is involved, or somewhat 15 years if only the left part side of your colon is involved in the disease.
A lot of complications are associated with ulcerative colitis. You can suffer from various complications if ulcerative colitis is left untreated or not treated properly. Sometimes, ulcerative colitis can lead to severe bleeding and dehydration. Liver disease can also occur though it is rare. It can increase the risk of blood clots in veins and arteries. Perforated colon, osteoporosis, increased the risk of colon cancer, rapidly swelling colon, and inflammation of your skin, joints, and eyes are some of the other complications associated with ulcerative colitis.
Check out the various myths related to ulcerative colitis:
Myth #1: Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the same things.
Myth #2: Ulcerative colitis is caused by emotional stress.
Myth #3: Most of the people who suffer from ulcerative colitis show severe symptoms.
Myth #4: Ulcerative colitis always means a high risk for colon cancer.
If you are looking for the answers to various questions including:
- What is ulcerative colitis?
- What are the causes, symptoms, complications, and myths of ulcerative colitis?
- How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed, prevented and treated?
Then refer to the above-mentioned information.
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