What is Ulcerative Colitis? Everything you need to know

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition of the large bowel which affects the colon and the rectum. It is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon and rectum). It usually begins in the rectum and spreads upwards.

This inflammation causes your bowel to move its contents rapidly and empty frequently. As the cells on the surface of the lining of your bowel die, ulcers form. The symptoms develop slowly over a period of time, rather than suddenly and can lead to life-threatening complications.

What causes Ulcerative colitis (UC)?

The exact aetiology (cause) for this disease is unknown. Though factors like heredity and stress play an important role. Doctors now know that these factors may aggravate ulcerative colitis but do not cause them.

One of the suspected factors can be autoimmunity when your immune system tries to fight off an invading virus it may attack the cells in the digestive tract too. This disease affects people of all ages, most people diagnosed belong to the age group of 15-35. After age 50, a small increase in the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is seen, usually in men.

Symptoms for ulcerative colitis

The seriousness of the symptoms varies among affected people and can change over time, for better or for worse. People diagnosed with UC may experience mild symptoms or are asymptomatic This is called ‘remission’. However, the symptoms can return and be serve which called a ‘flare-up’.

The common symptoms of Ulcerative colitis include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Difficulty in defecation
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Sometimes ulcerative colitis may cause other symptoms such as

  • Abdominal sounds
  • Bloody stools
  • Malnutrition
  • Rectal pain
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Nausea and decreased appetite

Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis can be diagnosed with the different tests, your doctor may run a few tests to determine whether you have UC and to rule out other possibilities.

Test to diagnose UC usually are:

  • Blood tests for anaemia
  • Stool test to examine your stool for blood, bacteria, and parasites
  • Endoscopy to examine your stomach, oesophagus, and small intestine
  • Colonoscopy using a long flexible tube into your rectum
  • CT scan uses a specialized x-ray of your abdomen and pelvis to diagnose UC

Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis can be treated by either medicine, surgery or naturally. You can opt for any of these options depending on the severity of your symptoms. Keep in mind that there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, and it is a chronic disease. The treatment is aimed at easing the symptoms.

Medications 

Medications for ulcerative colitis can be used to increase the periods of remission and reduce the severity and flare-ups. Your doctor might recommend you to take medicines for UC to reduce the inflammation and swelling. This helps in alleviating the symptoms.

Your doctor might prescribe you with anti-inflammatory drugs, immune-suppressants, antibiotics, pain-relievers, fever medications, and anti-diarrhoeal drugs.

Surgical treatments

Surgery is only necessary if you experience severe symptoms of UC, that affect your health and your normal life. Only 1 in 5 people will require surgery for their UC. Surgery is usually necessary if you experience large blood loss, chronic and debilitating symptoms, perforation of your colon, or severe blockage.

At chennai laser gastro clinic, the surgery involves removing your entire colon with the creation of a new pathway for waste. This procedure can eliminate the symptoms of your UC. The new pathway for waste can be cut through a small opening in your abdominal wall or redirected back through the end of your rectum.

Complications of UC

Ulcerative colitis increases your risk of colon cancer. Surveillance for cancer is important after you are diagnosed with UC. The doctors at Chennai Laser Gastro might perform a colonoscopy to check for cancer when you receive your diagnosis. Regular screenings can help you prevent this.

Other complications of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Extraintestinal manifestations
  • Bleeding perforation of the colon
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Perforated colon
  • Severe dehydration
  • Bone loss
  • Inflammation of skin, joints
  • Eyes and mouth sores

Diet for ulcerative colitis

While facing ulcerative colitis along with some treatments, you may need to make some lifestyle and dietary changes to your life. There is no information that certain foods can cause ulcerative colitis, but some foods can aggravate the symptoms caused by UC.

Keep a track of what you’re eating and how you feel, eliminate the food that causes your symptoms to flare up.

Some common foods to limit or avoid include:

  • Dairy products: people with inflammatory bowel diseases find that problems such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and gas improve by limiting dairy.
  • High-fibre foods: Foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may worsen your symptoms. In general, foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn can worsen your symptoms
  • Avoid other foods such as spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine that may make your signs and symptoms worse.

Other dietary tips can be having smaller meals rather than large meals every day and drinking plenty of liquids. You can contact your dietician and discuss with them about your issues and seek professional help.

Lifestyle changes may help to reduce and control your stress by exercising regularly but consult your doctor before you follow an exercise plan. If you are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis you may need to carefully follow your treatment plan throughout life.

Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran

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