It is an unpredictable Inflammatory bowel disease which affects more than 700,00 individuals in the United States. Every year there are about 20 to 25 percent cases of this disease of which about 2 percent is severe. Even in India more than 1 million of cases are registered every year. Some people may be a silent sufferer of this disease with no symptoms for years, whereas in some symptoms come and go away and the condition keeps on progressing with the time. In most of the cases, the experience flares up. If you have recently been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis a question that may wander in your mind is what the disease is? The answer to this issue is right here. A complete Guide to UC along with symptoms, Causes, Treatment, etc.

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What is ulcerative colitis?

The Other names of Ulcerative Colitis are Proctitis or Colitis. Speaking in medical terms, Ulcerative colitis is a chronic Inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation and eventually sores in the digestive tract. Usually, this disease occurs only in the innermost lining of the colon (large intestine) and rectum. But in some cases, it may affect the entire colon.  Usually, it begins in the rectum and then spread to the entire colon. It affects the Small intestine rarely, but it may cause the inflammation to the terminal ileum. Because of the inflammation, the bowel contents move rapidly. The formation of Ulcers is a result of the death of the cells that are present on the surface of the colon lining. This condition is characterized by bloody diarrhea, rectal bleeding, pain and cramps in the abdomen.

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The worst part of colitis is that it haunt for years or may last for life long. It may lead to cancer of the colon. Also, it has no cure. You can’t even imagine how much destruction this disease may cause. Once it enters the body, it hampers your health and steals your normal life. It first bangs your body with little discomfort which proceeds to sharp pain, cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. Soon the symptoms get worse with time, and you may have many stools along with bloody diarrhea. You start losing blood and become anemic and dehydrated. Your energy gets stolen, and life becomes horrible. Many victims of ulcerative colitis are forced to lock themselves at home during the time of flare up that leads to social withdrawal. Soon they start feeling ashamed, embarrassed and lose their confidence.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

By the extent of the location of the inflammation, we have five types of the disease. They are

1. Ulcerative proctitis:

In this, the inflammation is limited to the rectum. Such patient may have only one symptom, and that is mild intermittent rectal bleeding. But there are patients with severe rectal inflammation, and they may experience pain in the rectum and tenesmus along with the sudden urgency to defecate that compels them to rush to the toilet.

2. Proctosigmoiditis:

Here, the inflammation involves the rectum along with the sigmoid colon. It causes almost same symptoms as proctitis such as bleeding from the rectum, the urgency to pass stool, and tenesmus. But some patients also suffer from abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea.

3. Left-sided colitis:

There is inflammation of the rectum that extends up to sigmoid colon and descending colon which is present on the left side. This causes bloody diarrhea with abdominal cramps, abdominal pain, and weight loss.

4. Pancolitis:

The other name for Pancolitis is Universal colitis. In this condition, you can see the entire colon inflammation. The symptoms present may be mild if inflammation is low-grade. In that case, treatment responds to the medications. But usually, this is a severe condition and is difficult to treat. Symptoms included are bloody diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, abdominal cramps, night sweats and fever.

5. Fulminant colitis:

This type of colitis is very rare but severe. Patients suffering from fulminant colitis become very sick and suffers from dehydration, protracted diarrhea, bleeding, abdominal cramps and shock. There is also the risk of colonic rupture. This is an emergency situation where the patient needs to be hospitalized.

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What causes Ulcerative Colitis?

The exact cause of colitis is not known, but one of the popular theory is that the body immune system reacts to a bacterium or virus by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestinal wall. But while doing this, the immune system makes a mistake. In the case of colitis body immune system also attacks the gut bacteria and healthy cells that are lining the colon considering them intruders. The people with ulcerative colitis may have abnormalities in the immune system.

Sensitivity to certain food products is not the causative agent of the colitis, but they are the triggering factors. If you are looking for clinical evidence or scientific proof for this point you may not get any, but patients have reported that certain foods aggravate their condition.

As far as stress is concerned, some researchers do not consider it even triggering cause of colitis anymore. But some believe that it may cause the flare-up or aggravate the symptoms of colitis.

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Individuals at the risk of developing colitis:

There is no particular age group of the sufferers of colitis, but most often it appears between 15 to 30 years of the age. It is less frequent in people of age 50 to 70 years. Children may also develop this disease. There may be a family history of colitis as it has been seen running in the family. Talking about gender ulcerative colitis equally, effects in both men and females.

What are the ulcerative colitis Symptoms?

Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

1. Abdominal pain and cramps.

2. Bloody diarrhea

3. Loss of appetite

4. Pain in rectum

5. Frequent fever

6. Loss of weight7. Anemia

7. Anemia

8. Fatigue

9. Rectal bleeding

Due to the rectal bleeding, many suffers confuse it with piles and may not pay serious attention to it. More than 50 percent of individuals suffering from colitis exhibit mild symptoms. The symptom variability depends on the extent of inflammation and the amount of the rectum and colon involved or inflamed.

Read More: Ulcerative Colitis symptoms in Detail

Severe Complications

Besides the above symptoms, if ulcerative colitis is left untreated, it increases the chances of cancer of the colon. Other complications of ulcerative colitis are as follows:

  • Thickened intestinal wall
  • Sepsis
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Toxic megacolon – This is the condition of rapid swelling of the colon.
  • Rarely liver diseases
  • Kidney stones
  • Severe dehydration and shock
  • Ankylosing spondylitis- It is inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones.

Ulcerative colitis may also cause arthritis, inflammation of eyes, osteoporosis and skin rashes. The exact reason why the problem occurs outside the colon is not known. But scientist assumes that these complications occur when the immune system triggers the inflammation in the other body parts.

To know the brief details for symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis & IBS, follow the below link.

Ulcerative Colitis & IBD Symptoms

Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Ulcerative colitis is very closely related to Crohn’s disease, but the main difference is that Crohn’s disease affects any portion of the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, it may also affect liver, eyes, skin and joints. Crohn’s disease & ulcerative colitis together are known as inflammatory bowel disease.

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What are the tests and diagnostic procedures to diagnose ulcerative colitis

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are enough to persuade you to seek medical help. After ruling out the possibility of other causes that may cause similar signs and symptoms, your doctor is likely to diagnose ulcerative colitis. But to confirm it following tests and procedures will be helpful
1. Blood tests– To check for anemia
2. Stool sample– The presence of white blood cells in the sample of stool is suggestive of ulcerative colitis.
3. Colonoscopy– This is conducted view your entire colon. Tissue samples may also be taken for laboratory analysis.
4. Flexible sigmoidoscopy– This helps to examine the last portion of your colon.
5. X-ray– In the case of severe symptoms to rule out serious complications.
6. CT scan– A pelvic or abdomen CT scan helps to rule out other complications.

What is the treatment of ulcerative colitis?

By the severity of the disease, the physician will recommend several categories of drugs. The first line of therapy for ulcerative colitis includes Anti-inflammatory drugs.

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Best treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
Treatment Includes
  • In the case of moderate to severe situations of colitis that do not respond to other treatments, the intake of corticosteroids are helpful. Corticosteroids may cause some serious side effects such as facial hair, night sweats, puffy face, bone fracture, cataract, glaucoma, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Because of these side effects, corticosteroids is not given for long term.
  • If the single drug does not work alone and they require a combination of medicines.
  • Immunosuppressants along with corticosteroids will help in reducing the inflammation.
  • Sometimes the physicians also prefer new drugs, antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medicines, vitamin supplements, iron supplements and pain relievers to manage ulcerative colitis.
  • The final treatment includes Surgery, which includes removing of colon and rectum and ileoanal anastomosis to collect stool.

Ulcerative Colitis Diet

The patients suffering from Ulcerative Colitis should follow the following diet to control the disease aggravation. So, check out the Colitis Diet that patient must follow

  • Include Salmon in your routine
  • Always say yes to Yogurt
  • Have an egg every day
  • Rely on Oats (non-flavoured)
  • Avocados are best for you

Foods that you should eliminate from Ulcerative Colitis Diet are

  • Caffeine-containing Beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Popcorn
  • Don’t have spicy food
  • Avoid Pickles, Spicy Sauces etc

So, follow the Ulcerative Colitis Diet prescribed by your physician. Never have the foods those have spicy ingredients which aggravate the condition.

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Do’s and Dont’s:
  • Apart from medical intervention, there is something more you can do to treat ulcerative colitis, and that is a change in lifestyle and Ulcerative Colitis diet.
  • The most important key to ease symptoms of colitis is to stay active and reduce stress.
  • Dedicate 30 -45 minutes daily to mild exercises such as brisk walk, swimming, cycling, etc
  • You may also try yoga, breathing exercises and meditation.
  • There also needs to make changes in your IBS dietary measures. Eating small meals at short intervals is always helpful. Besides this drink plenty of water.
  • Increasing the intake of probiotics and food sources rich in omega-3 will be useful in reducing inflammation.
  • Some patients have reported relief in their symptoms by limiting the intake of dairy products, fatty foods, carbonated drinks, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine, dried fruits, meat, legumes, beans, seeds and spicy foods. It is better if you reduce the intake of fiber foods such as whole grains, raw vegetables, and fruits.

If your diagnosis report is positive with ulcerative colitis, there is no need to feel helpless. Because, with proper medication and changes in lifestyle and diet, you can control the symptoms of colitis.

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