Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) , which can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease. UC can occur in people of any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, or between 50 and 70 years of age. It affects men and women equally and appears to be hereditary, with up to 20 percent of people with ulcerative colitis having a family member or relative with UC or Crohn’s disease. Although UC cannot be cured, it can be controlled with appropriate treatment.
What Is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a disease which causes inflammation in the colon. The inflammation in the colon causes it to empty frequently, leading to diarrhea. UC also produces sores, called ulcers, in the lining of the rectum and colon. Ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells which usually line the colon. Once ulcers develop, they can cause bleeding, pus and mucus.
There are several types of Ulcerative Colitis, depending on the location of the disease within the body. When the inflammation occurs in the rectum and lower part of the colon it is called ulcerative proctitis (UP). If the entire colon is affected it is called pan colitis and if only the left side of the colon is affected it is called limited or distal colitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis?
People who have Ulcerative Colitis can have a range of symptoms. About half of the people diagnosed with ulcerative colitis have mild symptoms; however, others may have very severe symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal Pain/Cramps
- Rectal Bleeding
- Weight loss
- Loss Of Appetite
- Loss Of Body Fluids/Dehydration
- Loss of Nutrients
- Skin Lesions
- Joint Pain
How Is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?
Because the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis are similar to those of many other medical conditions, your Gastroenterologist (GI) will want to perform tests or procedures to make the correct diagnosis. The following procedures or tests may be performed:
- Blood Tests
- CT Scan (Computerized Tomography)
What Is The Treatment For Ulcerative Colitis?
Your GI may start with medications to control the inflammation which causes the symptoms associated with Ulcerative Colitis. There are various drug therapies your GI may use, including:
- Immune System Suppressors
- Iron/Calcium/Vitamin Supplements
At times when drug therapy no longer controls symptoms, surgery may be necessary. People who cannot tolerate the constant battle with their disease sometimes choose to have their colon surgically removed.
Ulcerative Colitis is a lifelong immune system disorder which can be controlled through the use of medications and surgical techniques. Although the average patient will go through periods of flares and remission, most patients can live a productive life. Lifestyle changes in diet as well as a close relationship with your Gastroenterologist can help to create a regimen in which you can closely control your symptoms.
Differences between Ulcerative Colits and Crohn’s Disease?
The primary difference between Ulcerative Colits and Crohn’s Disease is the location of the inflammation. Ulcerative Colitis occurs in the colon. Whereas, Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract.
Less prominent differences are represented by varying symptoms. In Crohn’s Disease, rectal bleeding is less common while continuous abdominal pain is more common. In ulcerative colitis, rectal bleeding is more common while continuous abdominal pain is more intermittent.