Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the rectum and colon. It is part of a group of diseases known as inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the rectum and colon. The ulcers can flare up and cause painful symptoms which can eventually lead to colon cancer.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
While ulcerative colitis usually begins between the ages of 15 and 30, many people over the age of 50 can also develop the disease. Thought to be an autoimmune disease, the cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, yet there is a tendency for patients with ulcerative colitis to have a close family relative with the same disease. Stress and other environmental factors may aggravate symptoms of ulcerative colitis, they are not the cause of the disease.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur in flare-ups that can be sudden and severe or begin gradually with mild symptoms. Depending on the severity of the inflammation, people may experience the disease differently. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pains
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
After conducting a thorough medical evaluation, various tests will be performed to confirm diagnosis. These tests may include:
- Blood test
- Stool test
- Colonoscopy with biopsy
- CT Scan
- Barium enema
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Treatment for ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease, but may include the following treatment methods:
- Drug therapy to induce and maintain remission
- Hospitalization to treat severe symptoms
- Surgery to remove the colon and rectum
- Adjustments to diet
- Stress management
Many people with severed ulcerative colitis may have their colons removed due to excessive bleeding and a high risk of developing colon cancer.
People with ulcerative colitis may experience periods of remission that last months or even years. The doctor can help determine which treatment option will work well based on the condition.