Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects only the colon and rectum. Ulcerative colitis is a form of colitis, a disease of the colon that includes characteristics of ulcers or open sores, which produces pus or mucus, in the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon). When this happens, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. The body will then send white blood cells into the lining of the intestines which creates inflammation and ulcers. IBD is often confused with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Ulcerative Colitis is often classified as an immune-mediated inflammatory disease.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
This depends of severity of inflammation and the frequency as well as where the ulcerative colitis occurs. Some symptoms may include any of the following:
- Diarrhea, often with blood and/or pus – the intestines mixes with water and electrolytes with the stool, sometimes 20 times a day.
- Abdominal pain and cramping – The intestines become inflamed and irritated. Ulcers may form in the large and small intestines. Severe abdominal pain may lead to vomiting which may be a sign of small bowel obstruction.
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding – small amount of blood with stool.
- Urgency to defecate – that feeling of worrying if you will make it in time.
- Unable to defecate – even though you had the urgency, you just can’t.
- Weight loss – causes malabsorption. You may experience being nauseated, you may not wish to eat.
- Fatigue – this can even wake you up at night.
Diagnosis for Ulcerative Colitis
Your physician will evaluate your history, perform an exam, and order 1 or more lab tests. Some include:
- Blood tests
- Stool tests
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- CT scan
- Barlum enema X-ray
Your physician will perform tests to determine the location and type of Ulcerative Colitis. There are 4 types to look for:
Pancolitis – affects the entire large intestine. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss.
Ulcerative Protitis – affects the rectum. Symptoms can include rectal bleeding, with or without pus, rectal pain, and feeling of urgency.
Left-Sided Colitis – affects the rectum, sigmoid colon, and left colon. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, pain in the left side of the abdomen, and weight loss.
Proctosigmoiditis – affects the rectum and the sigmoid colon. Symptoms can include bloody diarrhea, pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, and the constant feeling of the need to pass stool (tenesmus).
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis is unknown, but some researchers believe that genetics, environment and one’s immune system may be the reason. The immune system may be overreacting to normal bacteria in the digestive tract.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery. Your physician may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs or immune system suppressors. This make take several attempts to improve your situation. This is a life-long disease. Having regular visits with your gastroenterologist to monitor your symptoms is necessary.
Surgery can eliminate Ulcerative Colitis, but that means removing your entire colon and rectum. You will then need to wear a bag to collect your stool.
Lifestyle changes with Ulcerative Colitis
Foods to avoid:
- Dairy or limit dairy products
- Fried foods
- Raw fruits and vegetables
- Nuts, seeds, corn and popcorn
- Spicy foods
What to do when you have Ulcerative Colitis:
- Eat small meals
- Drink plenty of water
- Take a multivitamin
Stress – stress doesn’t cause Ulcerative Colitis but it can aggravate your symptoms. Reduce stress by exercising, regular relaxation and breathing exercises like meditation and yoga. Eat slower. Plan ahead, don’t rush.
Alternative Medicine – includes herbal supplements, probiotics, fish oil, aloe vera, acupuncture, vinegar and turmeric (cumin).
Prognosis of Ulcerative Colitis:
Having routine visits with your gastroenterologist who monitors your symptoms result in those afflicted living normal lives. You will need to have more-frequent screenings because your risk for colon cancer has increased.