Overview of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic inflammation and ulcers in your digestive system. Ulcerative colitis affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms generally develop over time and not abruptly.
Ulcerative colitis weakens and sometimes leads to fatal complications. While there is no known treatment for this, treatment can greatly reduce the signs and symptoms of the disease and also provide long-term relief.
Types of ulcerative colitis
Doctors usually classify ulcerative colitis based on its location. Types of ulcerative colitis:
Ulcerative proctitis: The swelling is limited to the area closest to the anus (rectum), and rectal bleeding may be the only sign of disease. Ulcerative colitis is mild.
Proctosigmoiditis: The inflammation affects the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower part of the colon). Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the intestines despite the desire to do so (tenesmus).
Left-sided colitis: The inflammation spreads from the rectum through the sigmoid and descending colon. Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain on the left side, and unexpected weight loss.
Pancolitis: This often affects the entire colon and causes severe abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea, including pain, fatigue, and significant weight loss.
Acute ulcerative colitis. This is very rare and affects the entire colon causing severe pain, profuse diarrhea, bleeding, fever, and the inability to eat.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is Blood in the stools. There may also be some pus in your stool.
- Stomach cramps
- Doesn’t seem hungry
- Feeling tired
- Joint pain or discomfort
- Mouth ulcers
- Pain in the eyes when you see the bright light
- Too few red blood cells called anemia
- Your colon doesn’t seem to empty after using the bathroom
- You wake up at night to go
- Unable to hold your stool inside
- Pain or bleeding when defecating
Your symptoms can flare up, go away, and come back. You may not have weeks or years.
Causes of ulcerative colitis
Researchers believe that ulcerative colitis may be the result of an overactive immune system. However, it is not clear why some immune systems respond by attacking the large intestine.
Risk factors that influence who develops ulcerative colitis
Genes: You can inherit a gene from your parents that increases your risk
Other immune disorders: If you have one type of immune disorder, your chances of developing a second disorder are higher
Environmental factors: Bacteria, viruses, and antigens stimulate your immune system
Risk factors of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis contributes to several risk factors, of which you can control things like diet and lifestyle and you cannot control things like age and genetics. The most common risk factors for ulcerative colitis are:
- Age: Ulcerative colitis usually begins before the age of 30, or people can develop UC at any age.
- Race / Ethnicity: Caucasians are at the highest risk for UC, although anyone of any race can get it. Ashkenazi Jews are at even greater risk to UC.
- Genetics: People with a family history of ulcerative colitis are at increased risk for UC (parents, siblings, or a child with UC).
- Environmental factors: Reacting to environmental substances such as bacteria or chemicals can lead to uncontrolled inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
- Diet and lifestyle: Although UC is a less common risk factor, consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids can contribute to digestive health problems. Also, a sedentary lifestyle or smoking are general health risk factors that contribute to your gastrointestinal health.
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis
Your doctor will diagnose ulcerative colitis after ruling out other causes for your signs and symptoms. To help diagnose ulcerative colitis, you may have one or more of the following tests and procedures:
Blood test: Your doctor may prescribe blood tests to check for anemia, a condition in which there are not enough red blood cells to carry enough oxygen to your tissues, or to check for signs of infection.
Stool sample: White blood cells in the stool can indicate ulcerative colitis. The stool pattern helps rule out other disorders such as infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Colonoscopy: A thin, flexible, lighted tube with an attached camera is used to test the colon. During the procedure, your doctor may also take small tissue samples (biopsy) for laboratory analysis. Sometimes a tissue sample can help confirm the diagnosis.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Your doctor will use a thin, comfortable, lighted tube to examine your rectum and sigmoid, the last part of your colon. If your colon is very inflamed, your doctor may perform this test instead of a full colonoscopy.
X-ray: If you have severe symptoms, your doctor may use a standard x-ray of your abdomen to rule out serious problems, such as colon perforation.
CT scan: Your doctor may perform a CT scan of your abdomen or pelvis if they suspect ulcerative colitis. A CT scan also shows how inflamed the colon is.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis
In treating ulcerative colitis, he said the main goal is to help patients better control their immunity. While ulcerative colitis and inflammation are less likely to return, a combination of treatment options can help keep your condition under control and live a full and rewarding life.
Treatment of ulcerative colitis is versatile and involves the use of medications, changes in diet and nutrition, and sometimes surgical procedures to repair or remove the affected parts of your gastrointestinal tract.
Medication: UC suppresses inflammation in the colon and allows the tissues to heal. Symptoms, which include diarrhea, bleeding, and abdominal pain, can also be reduced and controlled with effective medication.
In addition to controlling and suppressing symptoms (inducing remission), medications can also be used to reduce the frequency (maintain remission) of symptomatic inflammation. With proper treatment over time, periods of remission can be extended and periods of symptomatic inflammation can be reduced. Today a wide variety of medications are used to treat ulcerative colitis.
Combination therapy: In some cases, the healthcare provider may recommend adding therapy that works alongside the initial treatment to maximize its effectiveness. For example, biologicals can be added to an immunomodulator in combination therapy. As with all treatments, there are risks and benefits to combination therapy. Combining therapies can increase the effectiveness of IBD treatment, but there may also be an increased risk of side effects and toxicity. Your healthcare provider will identify the most effective treatment option for your healthcare needs.
Diet and nutrition: While ulcerative colitis may not be caused by the foods you eat, it is possible that after contracting the disease, specific foods can exacerbate symptoms. It is important to maintain a healthy and relaxing diet that will help reduce symptoms, replace lost nutrients, and promote healing.
For people with ulcerative colitis, maintaining good nutrition is essential because the disease often reduces your appetite but increases your body’s energy needs. Also, common symptoms like diarrhea reduce the body’s ability to absorb protein, fat, carbohydrates, as well as water, vitamins, and minerals.
Many people with ulcerative colitis have found that soft, flat foods are less uncomfortable than spicy or high-fiber foods. Your diet should be simple and include a variety of foods from all the food groups, your doctor recommends limiting your daily intake if you are found to be lactose intolerant.
Complications of ulcerative colitis
Complications of ulcerative colitis include:
- Bleeding: This can lead to anemia.
- Osteoporosis: Your bones may become weak from your diet or if you take too many corticosteroids.
- Dehydration: If your large intestine does not absorb enough, you will need to receive fluids through a vein (intravenous or intravenous).
- Inflammation: It can affect your joints, skin, or eyes.
- Fulminant colitis: Your UC attack is severe, your colon may rupture or the infection may spread through your body. Your intestines stop moving waste and your belly swells.
- Megacolon: Fulminant colitis can cause your colon to swell or burst. This is a dangerous problem, you probably need surgery.
- Liver disease: Your bile ducts or liver may be inflamed, or you may have scar tissue in your liver.
- Colon cancer: You are at risk for colon cancer, especially if your entire colon is affected or if you have a long-term UC.
Prevention of ulcerative colitis
There is no strong evidence that what you eat affects UC. You may find that certain foods exacerbate your symptoms when you have inflammation.
Exercises that help:
- Drink small amounts of water throughout the day
- Eat small meals throughout the day
- Limit your diet to high fiber content
- Avoiding fatty foods
- Reduce your milk intake if you are lactose intolerant
- Also, ask your doctor if you should take a multivitamin.