The inflammation due to ulcerative colitis causes the bowels to empty and move its contents more quickly than usual. When the cells lining the surface of the colon die, the ulcers then form. These sores can lead to bleeding gums, as well as the discharge of pus and mucus.
This condition may affect people of all ages. But most people who were diagnosed with it are within the 15-35-year-old range. After age 50 years, the risk of having this disease slightly increase for men.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of this condition can range from mild to severe and vary in the period from one case to another. Likewise, the signs you will experience depends mainly on the part of the colon that is infected.
The immune system will respond to this injury in the gut lining and cause swelling, pain, and redness. But symptoms differ in every person. In some cases, what is normal for you might be a flare-up of the disease in another. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Blood of pus in the stool
- Abdominal discomfort or pain
- Weight loss
- Reduced Appetite
- Frequent diarrhoea
A constant and sudden feeling that you need to move your bowel
Bowel matters are something that most people hesitate to discuss even with their doctors. When you have these symptoms, you must be honest and open to your doctor. The information that you give will be used to come up with an individual treatment plan for your case.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
Various factors cause ulcerative colitis. This condition occurs when the immune system becomes problematic and does not work correctly. It leads to inflammation of the colon’s inner lining. The swelling and irritation lead to open sores or ulcers in the colon.
Typically, the immune system fights illnesses, infections, and wards of viruses that don’t belong in the body. However, ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease wherein it fights your cells and your body.
Your white blood cells swarm to fight your gut, and this leads to persistent inflammation. There are no definite causes for this illness, but experts consider some things that trigger it.
Genes – ulcerative colitis may run in the family. You might get it in your genes, or you may have inherited abnormal genes that make you more at risk of having this disease.
Immune System Problems – you may have an infection that has triggered your immune system to act. But for some reason, it did not stop attacking your gut even if your disease is already treated. This will lead to inflammation and other symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Environment – germs, bacteria, or viruses in your surrounding environment may increase your risk of having this condition.
Similarly, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, birth control pills, and antibiotics may increase your risk of having this disease. A high-fat diet may cause you to have this condition as well.
More so, a few things are seen to trigger or cause a flare-up of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. It includes stress, certain foods, and emotional distress.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Ulcerative colitis is diagnosed based on the symptoms exhibited by the patient. There is no standard method of diagnosis, and your doctor will rely on the combination of symptoms. They will look into the status of the colon lining during endoscopy and histologic features based on biopsies. Likewise, they will check the results of your stool sample to exclude any infections materials that could cause the inflammation.
After a thorough physical examination, review of your medical history, and symptoms, your doctor may order some tests. A stool sample may be collected to be analyzed for potential infection and parasites.
You may also need to undergo some blood tests to check whether you have anemia or a low red blood cell count and an elevated count for your white blood cells. Your blood test result may indicate a higher sedimentation rate as well. If this is the case, it means an ongoing inflammation in your gut. It may show any type of chronic inflammation, such as UC or Crohn’s disease. In young males, anemia with diarrhea and chronic pain are common symptoms that raise a doctor’s suspicion.
Additionally, blood tests may also include results to show wellness of kidney functions, iron studies, liver function, and C-reactive protein. Likewise, a stool test for a protein type called calprotein is also noted to be useful for patients who may need a colonoscopy. This protein is a sensitive indicator that there is intestinal inflammation. In the early stages of inflammatory bowel diseases, increased levels of the calprotein indicate that there is inflammation, but it does not show whether it is UC or Crohn’s disease.
To confirm the condition, a patient may be required to undergo colonoscopy. In this procedure, a flexible tube will be used to view the large intestines and come up with a diagnosis and to determine the extent of the inflammation. Also, a relative sample of the intestinal lining will be taken for biopsy.
Another test that doctors may use is the barium enema X-ray. Patients will be given a chalky liquid substance through the rectum into the colon. This test is less accurate and may still require a colonoscopy for confirmation of UC.
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
There is no cure for ulcerative colitis. Treatment options are focused on controlling symptoms and prevent flare-ups. There are medicines, suggested diet changes, and surgery. You must have a treatment plan for your condition as soon as you get diagnosed with UC.
Your doctor may prescribe several kinds of medicines to decrease inflammation of your colon. It may include immunosuppressive drugs, antibiotics, sulfa drugs, and corticosteroids. Let your doctor know of any allergies you may have to avoid complications with the medications you will use.
Although food does not seem to play a role in ulcerative colitis triggers, some foods may cause a flare-up of symptoms. With your doctor’s help and a nutritionist, you can have a diet plan that will help manage your condition. Likewise, you may be ordered to take vitamins and supplements.
The last resort for the treatment of ulcerative colitis is surgery. A procedure that removes parts or all of the colon may be recommended if your condition worsens or leads to complications. There are various techniques that surgeons can present to you if there is a need to remove the entire colon. Like other surgeries, there are also risks and complications if you will undergo surgery for your UC; therefore, make sure to check out other options that may work for you.
What are the normal conditions?
Having a healthy gut is often overlooked by many. Discussing bowel movements and bowel issues are not done even with doctors. Usually, an intestinal problem is diagnosed in its late stages due to this hesitation by patients.
Thus, while you do not have any symptoms, you must always maintain your digestive tract’s normal condition. Keeping your insides healthy is your first step in fighting any potential disease and prevent it from developing.
Ideally, you should work towards reducing stress levels as it can be hard on your body and your gut. Learn to relax and find ways to lower stress. More so, prioritize getting enough sleep to avoid severe impact on your gut health.
Eating slowly and staying hydrated also help promote better digestion and absorption of nutrients. When you chew your food thoroughly, you help reduce discomfort and keep your gut healthy. Similarly, drinking more water benefits the mucosal lining of your colon and maintains a balance of friendly bacteria.
Adding probiotics or prebiotic supplements is also an excellent way of improving gut health. And if you have food intolerances, you should avoid foods that trigger your symptoms. It will also help to make simple changes in your diet. Make sure to cut down on high-sugar, processed, and high-fat items. Go for plant-based foods and lean protein for a positive impact on your gut.
The Risks of Having Ulcerative Colitis
Most people with this condition do not have any family history. But about 12 percent with the disease have relatives with various types of bowel problems.
This disease can develop in any race or ethnicity, but it is more common in white people. Ashkenazi Jews have higher chances of getting this condition than other ethnic groups.
If you ignore the symptoms and do not seek treatment for ulcerative colitis, you have a higher risk of getting severe complications.
When to Seek Medical Attention
If you exhibit symptoms of ulcerative colitis, you should call your doctor for a diagnosis. Depending on the extent of your condition, the symptoms may vary widely. In case you feel abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, cramping, blood in your stool, urinary discomfort and cramping, seek immediate medical attention.