Ulcerative Colitis

It seems that more and more people suffer from IBD. The rising incidence of inflammatory bowel disease cannot be neglected. Medical researchers don’t know why, let alone how inflammatory bowel disease develops. They only thing that they are positive about is the fact that there is a global emergence. Many illnesses can be included in the IBD umbrella term. One noteworthy disease is ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis, not forgetting about Crohn’s disease, is the most prevalent type of IBD. It’s a chronic, lifelong condition that affects a person’s daily life.


Ulcerative Colitis: Overview & Facts

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an idiopathic disease that causes the inflammation of the rectum and colon cell lines. To be more precise, the inflammatory bowel disease affects the lining of the rectum and large intestine (colon).The swelling can lead to ulcers, which pus and mucus, and eventually disrupt the digestive process. The cause of the intestinal disorder is unknown. Researchers have several theories when it comes to appropriate causes, but they are not able to say for sure what causes the inflammation and sores. These are the possible causes of ulcerative colitis:

1. Genetics

Doctors cannot affirm that ulcerative colitis is caused by genetics. But neither can they neglect the fact that genetics play an important role in the development of the illness. It has been discovered that there are inherited determinants shared by ulcerative colitis patients. The matter of the fact is that genetic determinants can make a person susceptible to developing UC. Recent examinations have discovered multiple genes in relation to ulcerative colitis. Scientists have not yet determined the way in which these genes act.

2. Weakened immune system

Another ulcerative colitis theory involves immune system dysfunction. When the immune system is weakened, inflammation results in the intestinal mucosa. The immune response is in connection with the mass of commensal bacteria. Simply put, the immune system overreacts to the bacteria in the digestive track, which is completely normal.

3. Environmental factors

The role of environmental factors in UC is undeniable. Things like smoking and microorganisms trigger unwanted responses. Smoking, on the one hand, increases the severity of the malady, the chemicals within tobacco affecting being the ones responsible. Nonetheless, the relationship between smoking and ulcerative colitis is much more complex. Microorganisms, on the other hand, like bacteria and viruses, worsen UC symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis is a medical condition that includes many types, ranging from mild to acute. These are the types of ulcerative colitis:

  • Ulcerative proctitis: Ulcerative proctitis is only a mild form of the disease. The swelling is limited to the area that is closest to the anus. The ulcerations do not affect the bowel muscle wall. The only manifestation of illness is rectal bleeding.
  • Proctosigmoiditis: This type of UC affects the sigmoid colon, which is part of the large intestine and is adjacent to the rectum and colon. This medical condition cannot be cured, unfortunately.
  • Left-sided colitis: Left-sided or distal colitis starts in the rectum and it prolongs to the left colon. As the name suggests, the inflammation is located on the left side of the abdomen.
  • Pancolitis: Pancolitis perturbs the colon, whose wall is thickening. It has been estimated that about 20% of the population has pancolitis. It can affect the entire large intestine.


Symptoms & Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis

Common ulcerative colitis symptoms include:

  • Stools are loose and sometimes with blood
  • Urge to have bowel movement
  • Abdominal pain/cramping
  • Fever
  • Reduced appetite
  • Bleeding from anus
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia

It is important not to neglect the fact that each type of UC has its own set of symptoms. The manifestations specific to the different types of ulcerative colitis are:

  • Ulcerative proctitis: rectal bleeding, pain in the anus, mucus discharge, impossibility to control the bowel
  • Proctosigmoiditis: bloody diarrhea, urgency, abdominal cramps, need to defecate despite the bowel being empty
  • Left-sided colitis: loss of appetite, dehydration, rectal spasms, constipation
  • Pancolitis: night sweats, fever, abdominal cramps, blood in stool

Although ulcerative colitis isn’t a fatal malady, it is recommended to seek medical attention immediately.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease, as mentioned previously. IBD’s symptoms vary and imitate other illnesses. Therefore, it is not enough for a gastroenterologist to ask about symptoms and take the patient’s history. An accurate physical examination is conducted and multiple tests are ordered in order to diagnose ulcerative colitis.

During the course of the physical examination, the medical practitioner feels the abdomen, performs a digital rectal exam, assesses bowel sound, examine the eyes, skin, and inside the mouth, and, last but not least, perform a pelvic examination (for women). As a rule, ulcerative colitis exhibits intestinal and extra intestinal findings on the physical examination.

A physical examination offers the medical practitioner the chance to procure baseline information about the patient, but the clinical presentation needs to be followed by laboratory tests. The investigations that are necessary for the diagnosis of the affliction are:

  • Blood tests: Blood tests are carried out to determine whether there is swelling in any part of the body. The white cells are attracted to the inflammation, so if the white blood count is high, the likelihood is that there is inflammation. Blood tests are useful, but the results they provide are not satisfactory.
  • Sigmoidoscopy: This medical procedure is realized to look inside the colon. The colon as well as the lower part of the rectum is inspected. A sigmoidoscope, with a small camera at the end, is inserted. The procedure is minimally invasive.
  • Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy is used to look inside the entire colon. The colonoscope is a long piece of tubing that is inserted into the rectum and advances slowly. This screening exam is preferred because it allows the gastroenterologist to perform a thorough examination.
  • Imaging tests: Images retrieved from tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs can show perforation, obstruction, or just dilatation. Pictures of the inside of the body are taken not only to diagnose, but also to monitor ulcerative colitis.

Biopsies are sometimes done in order to retrieve a small portion of the bowel and examine its microscopic features. Biopsies are uncomfortable, although anesthesia is administered. The medical procedure does not take more than a quarter of an hour and the patient is free to go home the same day.

Establishing a correct diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is not easy on the grounds that symptoms are not specific. What is more, UC affects people in different ways.


Ulcerative Colitis Outlook

Individuals who have been diagnosed with UC will want to know their outlook. While ulcerative colitis is not curable, there are reasons to be positive as the symptoms can be successfully managed. At this stage, it is of paramount important for sufferers to inform themselves about the illness and seek out treatment. Equally important is for them to request help from IBD organizations. There are organizations out there that provide assistance to people, regardless of the stage of the disease. What they are trying to do is help people and their families through a difficult time.


Ulcerative Colitis: Treatment & Care

There are many treatments available for ulcerative colitis. The therapy depends on the severity of the present illness and the manifestations that are visible. The goal of any treatment is to hold back the inflammation, attain remission and, most importantly, maintain remission. Medical care involves drug therapy and surgery.

The most prevalent form of treatment is medication. Many drugs have proven to be effective in treating UC, such as anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and immune system suppressors. Anti-inflammatory medications work well for people who suffer from mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. These drugs are administered orally or rectally. Corticosteroids, on the other hand, impede the production of cortisol, thus reducing swelling in the body. Corticosteroids are meant to make ulcerative symptoms much less severe. Immune system suppressors are medications that have effects on the immune system, in the sense that the body is less likely to react to commensal bacteria. It takes time until the therapies work and they can possible have side effects.

Surgery is taken into consideration when the illness does not respond to drugs. And when the disease progresses. The mater of the fact is that, over time, the therapies for ulcerative colitis can become ineffective.  A surgical procedure is the only known cure for ulcerative colitis. During surgery, the large intestine and the rectum are removed. In medical terms, the procedure is referred to as a proctocolectomy.

Since the colon and the rectum are taken out, the surgeon has to attach the lower part of the colon to a hole made in the torso. This makes it possible for the waste to leave the body. Surgery has a great effect on the management of ulcerative colitis. Colon cancer, one of the most invasive ones, is a common complication of this inflammatory bowel disease. By eliminating the colon and the rectum, there is no more risk for colon cancer.  The transition from polyp to cancer is a fast one, which is the reason why surgery is recommended.

Diet and nutrition are important in the treatment of ulcerative colitis. People with UC have to pay close attention to the act of eating. Certain foods can make the symptoms worse. The edible materials that contribute to the swelling are the fatty and greasy ones. Examples include pizza and hamburgers. Dairy products should be avoided because they can’t be absorbed directly into the blood stream. Dairy products should be eliminates from one’s diet, especially if lactose intolerance is a problem. If this is not possible, then the consumption should be limited.

It is best for people who have ulcerative colitis to follow a low-fiber diet. This type of regimen excludes foods like grains and vegetables that are not properly digested by the body. The goal of the nutritional therapy is to have fewer bowel movements and ease ulcerative colitis symptoms.


Who Is At Risk For Ulcerative Colitis?

Possible risk factors for ulcerative colitis are:

  • Age: Age has been considered in the presentation and course of the idiopathic disease. More often than not, ulcerative colitis is diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Therefore, it mostly affects young adults. Adults that are diagnosed under the age of 40 are more likely to attain remission.
  • Gender: Both men and women are susceptible to develop an inflammatory bowel disease. Nonetheless, according to recent findings, ulcerative colitis is more common in men than in women. On the other hand, Crohn’s disease is prevailing in women.
  • Ethnicity: UC predominantly affects Caucasians, Oriental and Middle Eastern people, and people of Eastern European descent. Ulcerative colitis affects people of all races, though.
  • Drugs: Medications may play a role. Antibiotics, isotretinoin, oral contraceptives and sodium phosphate can cause an inflammatory bowel disease.


How to Naturally Treat Ulcerative Colitis

Patients with ulcerative colitis often turn to alternative treatments because they are natural and non-toxic. They largely believe that adding natural therapies will provide them the relief that they are desperately seeking. While alternative treatments do not cure the idiopathic disease, they can ease the symptoms. Here are some examples of alternative treatments for ulcerative colitis:

1. Probiotics

Probiotics are basically the good bacteria that is found in the digestive system. People who do not have enough probiotics often have digestive disorders. A colony of good bacteria helps the digestive process and promotes gut health. When there are no probiotics, ulcerative colitis worsens.

2. Herbal remedies

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries, but only recently has it started to be used to keep inflammatory bowel disease symptoms under control. Sufferers can utilize curcumin. Addition of this ingredient can lead to remission in people with mild to moderate UC. It is advisable to discuss with a gastroenterologist before including curcumin to one’s diet.

3. Relaxation training

Relaxation training is the process that helps a person to relax. It has been discovered that relaxation techniques can be fruitful when it comes to ameliorating pain. During the process, patients understand how to manage their stress and, ultimately, feel at ease. It is important for individuals to relax because stress can affect their disease.


Last updated on March 2nd, 2018

Chris Riley

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