Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are chronic and uncomfortable. Out of the approximately 1.6 million Americans that have IBD, about 907,000 of them have ulcerative colitis (UC). This condition is the development of inflammation and sores on the rectum and colon which causes mild to severe symptoms. In some cases, ulcerative colitis can lead to life-threatening complications. That’s why it’s important for people to recognize the signs by searching online so they know when it’s time to see a doctor.
Since there is no cure for this condition, people must learn how to manage UC to live comfortably. There are various treatments available that you can learn more about with a search online.
Here’s what you need to know about ulcerative colitis.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis will typically start growing on the rectum and lead to the inner lining of the colon, though it’s possible for the inflammation and sores to involve the entire colon. The symptoms will vary from person to person. It’s also possible for an individual’s symptoms to change over time.
Some of the most common symptoms of UC include:
- Abdominal pain;
- Increased abdominal sounds;
- Bloody stools;
- Rectal pain;
- Weight loss, and;
In some cases, ulcerative colitis can cause other types of conditions. This might include joint pain or swelling, nausea, skin problems, mouth sores, and inflammation. In rarer cases of UC, a person may develop a complication called toxic megacolon. This involves widening of the colon and sepsis.
Risk Factors of Ulcerative Colitis
Anyone can develop ulcerative colitis, but the one factor that puts you more at risk compared to others is family history. If you have a close relative with UC, then you’re at increased risk of developing it.
The condition affects the same number of men and women. Most people with ulcerative colitis will usually experience symptoms before the age of 30, though some may not develop it until after age 60. It’s also been found that people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent pose a higher risk of UC.
Testing and Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis
To diagnose ulcerative colitis, doctors will perform blood and stool tests. This can help rule out other infections and also show if you have anemia, which is a symptom of UC. A colonoscopy, X-ray, and CT scans are other diagnostic methods.
A sigmoidoscopy is another common procedure. It involves looking at your rectal lining, lower large intestine, or colon. This can help doctors visually detect inflammation, bleeding, or another ailment.
After your doctor gives you an exam, they will label the ulcerative colitis based on its location and your symptoms. These classifications also give you an idea of how much your UC has developed. Moreover, it helps doctors recommend the best course of treatment.
The four types of ulcerative colitis are:
- Ulcerative Proctitis: Inflammation confined closest to the rectum.
- Proctosigmoiditis: Inflammation involves the rectum and lower end of the colon.
- Left-Sided Colitis: Inflammation extends from the rectum up through the sigmoid and descending colon.
- Pancolitis: This type affects the entire colon.
Treatments for Ulcerative Colitis
Treatments for ulcerative colitis won’t cure the condition, but it can help to regulate the immune system and manage symptoms. Patients may use one type of treatment or a combination of them depending on their unique condition.
Certain medications can treat inflammation and symptoms such as diarrhea, bleeding, and abdominal pain. Medication may also be prescribed to lower the frequency of flare-ups. Alongside medication, it can be helpful for patients to alter their diet and nutrition.
Experts have found that certain foods can aggravate symptoms in UC patients. This includes spicy, high-fibers, or dairy foods. Instead, eating a healthy diet that involves softer and blander food can cause less discomfort.
In some cases, medicine and diet changes aren’t enough to treat UC. Surgery may be required to remove the colon and rectum completely with the creation of an ileostomy or external stoma. The type of surgical procedure for UC will greatly depend on the patient’s age, overall health, and symptoms.
Living With Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a condition where symptoms will come and go. Some people may go months or years without a flare-up, whereas others may experience symptoms more frequently. It’s an unpredictable disease that requires you to closely monitor symptoms and evaluate which courses of treatment are most effective for you.
If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms, make sure to see your doctor. UC can be dangerous if left untreated. The sooner you’re given a diagnosis, the sooner you’ll be able to test treatments that can eliminate the inflammation and sores in the rectum and colon.