Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammations and ulcers. This inflammation is long lasting. Ulcerative colitis affects your colon and your rectum and develops over time rather than suddenly. Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.
Although there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, getting the proper treatment can help you reduce signs and symptoms, and even bring about long-term remission.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary depending on the severity of inflammation and where in your bowel the ulcerative colitis is located. Doctors often classify ulcerative colitis according to location. You may experience the following signs and symptoms, depending on what part of your colon is inflamed:
- Abdominal Pain and Cramping
- Diarrhea, with Blood or Pus
- Failure to Grow (children)
- Inability to Defecate
- Rectal Bleeding
- Rectal Pain
- Urgency to Defecate
- Weight Loss
If you are experiencing abdominal pain, blood in your stool, diarrhea that awakens you from your sleep, diarrhea that doesn’t respond to medication or an unexplained fever that lasts more than a day or two, you should see your doctor for treatment.
The exact causes of ulcerative colitis are not known. Diet and stress were suspected to be the cause, but doctors now know that these factors aggravate ulcerative colitis, but don’t necessarily cause it to occur. Immune system malfunction is a possible cause because the cells of the digestive tract are affected. When your immune system tries to attack an invading bacteria or virus, if you have an abnormal immune response your immune system may attack the healthy cells of your digestive tract too. Heredity also seems to play a role in ulcerative colitis. If you have family members that have the disease, it is more likely that you will develop ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis usually occurs before the age of 30. It can occur at any age. Some people don’t develop ulcerative colitis until after age 60. Having a close relative (parent, sibling, child) puts you at a higher risk of ulcerative colitis. If you have used this medication to treat cystic acne or acne, you may be more at risk for IBD and possibly ulcerative colitis. Caucasian people have the highest risk of developing ulcerative colitis. If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, your risk is even higher.
If goes untreated
Some of the possible complications of ulcerative colitis can be very serious. These complications include the following conditions:
- Blood Clots in Veins and Arteries (increased risk)
- Bone Loss
- Colon Cancer Increased Risk
- Inflammation of your Skin
- Inflammation of the Eyes
- Liver Disease
- Perforated Colon (a hole in the colon)
- Severe Bleeding
- Severe Dehydration
- Sores in the Mouth Lining
- Toxic Megacolon (A rapidly swelling colon)
To prepare for your appointment, make a list of all the symptoms you have been experiencing even symptoms that seem unrelated. Ask a family member or friend to come with you since it can be hard to take in all the information your doctor gives you. Try to write down any questions you may have and ask them to your doctor. Sometimes you may be required to restrict your diet or give a stool sample, be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. To diagnose you your doctor will ask about your symptoms, personal life, and medications and supplements you are taking. Your doctor will ask you about the following topics:
- Digestive Issues and Possible Causes: Do you have diarrhea? How often? Have you been awakened in your sleep during the night because of diarrhea? Is anyone else in your home sick with diarrhea and have you recently traveled? Have you been losing weight unintentionally?
- Medications: Have you recently taken antibiotics? Do you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs regularly? Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are ibuprofen drugs like Advil and Motrin, or naproxen sodium drugs like Aleve and Anaprox?
- Pain and Inflammation: Are you in abdominal pain? Have you have problems with joints, eyes, skin rashes, sores, sores in your mouth?
- Symptoms: When did symptoms start?
- Are symptoms continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms? Does anything seem to improve these symptoms? What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? Have you experienced liver problems, hepatitis, or jaundice?
- Blood Tests
- CT Scan
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
- Stool Sample
Your treatment depends mainly on how bad your disease is. You will probably be prescribed with medicine and will require changes in your diet. Treatment for severe cases may require surgery or hospital treatment.
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