Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease of the colon, or large intestine, in which the lining of your colon becomes inflamed and leads to the development of small open sores known as ulcers. The inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis can cause individuals to experience pain and discomfort in their abdominal region, as well as more urgent, frequent emptying of their bowels. At this time, nearly 700,000 Americans suffer from ulcerative colitis, and the disease is a major known risk factor of colon cancer.
This bowel disease is thought to be the cause of an abnormal response triggered by your immune system in your intestines. In the event of ulcerative colitis, your immune system detects a series of foreign invaders such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and becomes activated — leading to chronic inflammation and ulceration. The cause of the condtion is largely unknown at this time, and tends to commonly affect individuals between 15 and 30 years of age.
Many tend to confuse the symptoms of ulcerative colitis with Crohn’s disease; however, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas ulcerative colitis is restricted to just the colon, and affects only the lining of the colon.
Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can occur off and on, and individuals may experience flare-ups after having experienced no side effects or symptoms for an extended period of time. The sporadic side effects sometimes makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose and prescribe treatments for the condition.
Most individuals who suffer from ulcerative colitis will experience drastic weight loss as a result of loss of appetite, as well as fatigue and low energy levels.
Other common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- More urgent, frequent, and loose bowel movements
- Painful bowel movements
- Intense bouts of diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain
- Bloody stools
- Intense abdominal cramps
- Joint pain
Diagnosing & Treating Ulcerative Colitis
Talk to your doctor if you suspect that you might be suffering from ulcerative colitis. Your physician will perform a series of tests to determine whether you need treatment, and may require that you undergo blood tests and x-rays, provide stool samples, and have either a colonoscopy or proctosigmoidocopy.
If your doctor finds that you have ulcerative colitis, you may be prescribed drug therapy and be required to alter your diet. In most cases, you may be prescribed one or more medications that can reduce inflammation in your bowels, such as sulfa drugs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, and antibiotics.
Consult with your health care provider if you are experiencing any symptoms related to ulcerative colitis. Undergoing treatment for this condition can significantly reduce your risk for colon cancer.