Ulcerative colitis is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation in the innermost lining of your colon (large intestine) and rectum. This chronic condition can be debilitating and can occasionally lead to life-threatening complications.
Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.
There are several types of ulcerative colitis with varying symptoms. These may include abdominal pain, ongoing diarrhea that doesn’t respond to OTC (over-the-counter) medicines, blood in your stool, bloody diarrhea, unexplained fever and/or unexplained weight loss.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should talk to your physician to determine the cause. In some cases, the diarrhea can become so severe that dehydration leads to shock. In addition, one type of ulcerative colitis may result in colon rupture or toxic megacolon.
Many patients experience bouts of acute ulcerative colitis with periods of remission. In the long run, however, the severity of the disease typically remains constant. Those patients who have a milder version of ulcerative colitis aren’t likely to develop the more severe symptoms and complications.
The causes aren’t definitive, but medical professionals now agree about one thing that does NOT cause ulcerative colitis – stress. Previously, it was believed that stress caused ulcerative colitis, but most are now in agreement that although it does not cause it, stress can aggravate the symptoms.
The current belief is that a virus or bacterium may trigger ulcerative colitis causing inflammation of the digestive tract when your immune system tried to fight off the invading microorganism. Although some patients have parents or siblings with ulcerative colitis, many don’t have a family history.
Ulcerative colitis can start at any age, but most often starts before age 30. Studies also show that white individuals are more likely to experience this condition.
To determine if you have ulcerative colitis, your physician will likely perform one or more of the following exams:
As mentioned above, there are several potential complications including severe bleeding, severe dehydration, perforated colon, kidney stones, osteoporosis, colon cancer and toxic megacolon (rapidly swelling colon). In addition, some patients experience inflammation of the joints, eyes and skin. In rare cases, liver disease can be a complication.
In most cases, ulcerative colitis can be managed with medication from several different drug categories including anti-inflammatories, immune system suppressors, anti-diarrheal drugs, antibiotics and pain relievers, Acetaminophen (Tylenol® and others) is preferred, because ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®, etc.), naproxen (Aleve®) and aspirin may make your symptoms worse).
Your doctor will also recommend an increased frequency of colon cancer screening since having ulcerative colitis may put you at higher risk for colon cancer.