Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss. The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Treatment for ulcerative colitis typically involves medications to reduce inflammation and prevent recurrence of symptoms. In some cases, surgery may also be required.
Ulcerative colitis: causes, symptoms, therapies
Ulcerative colitis is one of the chronic inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Can greatly affect the lives of those who suffer from it.
Ulcerative colitis, also known as ulcerative colitis, is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This condition can have serious consequences for the patient’s health. Can strongly influence the quality of life, especially if not recognized and treated appropriately.
The disease damages the lining of the intestines. Causing inflammation and the formation of small ulcers in the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis usually involves the rectum and other portions of the colon, but its effects can impact other areas of the body as well.
Along with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is considered one of the chronic inflammatory diseases affecting the intestines. Currently the causes are not known, nor is it possible to completely recover from the disease. However, it is possible to keep the symptoms at bay by following adequate drug therapy and undergoing regular screening checks.
The disease affects both men and women equally, and tends to begin between ages of 15 and 30. Although cases of ulcerative colitis in children under 5 are not excluded (fortunately these are rare cases) and in the elderly.
Types of ulcerative colitis
There are four main types of ulcerative colitis:
1. Ulcerative proctitis:
This is the mildest form of ulcerative colitis, and only affects the rectum and anal area. Symptoms may include bleeding from the rectum, diarrhea, and discomfort during bowel movements.
This form of ulcerative colitis affects the rectum and sigmoid colon (the lower part of the large intestine). Symptoms may include bleeding from the rectum, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and urgency to have a bowel movement.
3. Left-sided colitis:
This form of ulcerative colitis affects the left side of the large intestine, including the descending colon and sigmoid colon.
Ulcerative colitis: possible causes
To date, the exact cause of this disease is still unknown. In the past it was believed that the condition was the result of excessive stress or an incorrect diet. But it was later found that, although the two factors could accentuate the symptoms. In reality they were not in fact a trigger.
However, recent research has allowed us to advance theories on the possible origin of the disease. In fact, it is believed that the condition can be caused by several factors, including:
Genetic predisposition and heredity: the disease is more common in those who already have a family member with ulcerative colitis
Alterations in the epithelial barrier of the colon
Environmental factors not yet identified
Malfunction of the immune system: that is, an incorrect immune response by the body. Which attacks the microorganisms present in the intestinal flora considering them a threat. Consequently causing inflammation and disease symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis: symptoms not to be overlooked
The initial symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be easily misleading. As you will notice, in fact, the disorders caused by the disease unite many other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Symptoms to look out for include:
Diarrhea (mostly nocturnal) that doesn’t go away with traditional treatments and over-the-counter medications
Presence of blood and mucus (pus) in the stool
Rectal tenesmus: or the feeling of having to go to the bathroom urgently, without producing any stool evacuation
Cramps and abdominal pain
Loss of appetite
Unexplained fever and weight loss are symptoms that usually occur in more severe cases of the disease.
A relapsing-remitting ibd disease
This disease has a relapsing-remitting pattern. In fact, periods of remission of symptoms (in which the disturbances can be very light or even completely absent). Alternate with periods of exacerbation, which can have a variable duration and intensity from time to time.
In almost half of the patients, manifestations that do not only concern the intestine (extraintestinal symptoms) may occur.
The disease can in fact cause inflammation of the joints (arthritis) or skin (with manifestations such as mouth ulcers and aphthous stomatitis, or psoriasis), eye disorders, bone problems (osteoporosis) and consequences also for the liver.
In some cases the symptoms, in the exacerbation phase, can be so severe as to require hospitalization for immediate treatment.
In patients who do not respond to drug therapies, total or partial colectomy may be considered.
Ulcerative colitis: complications and possible consequences
In addition to intestinal symptoms, colitis and ulcerative colitis can have serious consequences that affect the patient’s general health.
If left untreated, the disease can, for example, irreversibly damage the colon, paving the way for the development of small precancerous or cancerous lesions, and therefore increasing the risk of developing colorectal cancer and other life-threatening complications.
In some rare cases (less than 10% of cases), the patient may develop what is defined as “fulminant rectocolitis”. Which there is extreme swelling of the colon walls, which distends, preventing the passage of faeces and gas, and increasing the risk of colon perforation. In this case we speak of “toxic megacolon”. A condition which constitutes a medical emergency, and which requires immediate intervention.
In children and younger patients, ulcerative colitis can also cause development to slow.
General, this condition is considered a chronic disease, with all the consequences that this entails.
Ulcerative colitis can profoundly affect the life of those who suffer from it, especially in the exacerbation phases, when the disease affects the person’s social and working life, with both physical and psychological consequences.
Ulcerative colitis diagnosis and tests
The doctor can hypothesize the presence of the disease based on the symptoms experienced by the patient. However, as you can see, the disorders caused by ulcerative colitis are, at least in the initial stages, similar to those of other diseases, such as the aforementioned irritable bowel syndrome or, in the most serious cases, Crohn’s disease.
To identify the cause of the symptoms, it will therefore be necessary to perform various tests, starting with those of the feces and blood tests, from which a state of anemia or values that indicate the presence of chronic or acute inflammation could emerge.
Imaging tests are necessary for the formulation of a correct diagnosis. The patient may undergo radiological examinations, abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, abdominal x-ray, colonoscopy and endoscopy with biopsies of intestinal tissue.
There is no one test that can definitively diagnose ulcerative colitis. Instead, doctors usually rely on a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests to make a diagnosis. A colonoscopy is often used to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. During a colonoscopy, a doctor will insert a small camera into the rectum and colon to look for signs of inflammation.
Sigmoidoscopy is a diagnostic procedure used to visually examine the lower part of the large intestine, known as the colon. The exam is performed using a flexible, lighted tube called a sigmoidoscope.
Can be used to diagnose ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the lining of the colon and rectum. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that can lead to serious complications, including bleeding and malnutrition.
Sigmoidoscopy is a safe and relatively painless procedure that can provide valuable information about the health of the colon. The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis, and no special preparation is required.
Ulcerative colitis in children
Children can develop ulcerative colitis, although it is more common in adults. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum that causes ulcers, or sores, to form on the lining of the intestine. The most common symptoms in children is bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain and cramping, weight loss, and fever. Left untreated, children with ulcerative colitis can lead to serious complications such as malnutrition, dehydration, and anemia. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to preventing these complications.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis
Unfortunately, currently there is still no therapy that can guarantee complete recovery for patients with ulcerative colitis (except for surgery).
However, one must not be discouraged. The latest scientific discoveries and the continuous evolutions in the medical field make it possible to formulate increasingly effective treatments to be able to keep the disease at bay.
Several categories of drugs are used today to relieve symptoms. Usually these are anti-inflammatory drugs – which represent the first step in the treatment of the disease – and immunosuppressants, corticosteroids and biological drugs.
Additional treatments may be needed to manage symptoms, such as anti-diarrheal medications, supplements, or medicines and remedies to relieve abdominal pain.
Talk to your specialist to find the treatment that best suits your needs, and remember that a drug that has been shown to be effective for someone with the same disease as you will not necessarily be as effective for you. In fact, the treatment must be personalized on the basis of the symptoms, health conditions and needs of the individual patient.
It will also be necessary to respect the treatment both in the phases of acuteness of the symptoms and in those of remission, in order to reduce the inflammation of the intestine and prevent its numerous possible consequences.
In the most extreme cases, i.e. when the patient does not respond to drug therapy, it is possible to perform colonic removal surgery (proctocolectomy), considered the only way to combat the disease in a decisive way.
Living with ulcerative colitis: is there a diet to follow?
People with ulcerative colitis wonder what to eat with ulcerative colitis and what foods to avoid. In fact, to date there is no real recommended diet for those suffering from this condition.
On the other hand, some research has shown that eating too much animal fat and not consuming enough fruits and vegetables could make symptoms worse.
In general, experts agree that a balanced and healthy diet – such as the Mediterranean one – represents the most suitable option for keeping the disease at bay, even at the table.
However, as we said, there are no “allowed foods” and “forbidden foods”; we must therefore rely on common sense and, above all, listen to what our body tells us, learning to recognize the foods that cause an accentuation of the symptoms. In this sense, it may be useful to compile a food diary to write down the foods that cause or exacerbate intestinal disorders.
If your diet is very limited and you are losing a lot of weight, don’t ignore the problem, but consult a dietician to formulate a diet that fits your specific nutritional needs.
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease face a unique set of challenges when it comes to surgery. Ulcerative colitis, in particular, can pose a serious risk to patients during and after surgery. In some cases, patients may need to be placed on special diets or receive additional medications to manage their condition. It is important for patients to work closely with their doctors to ensure that they are getting the best possible care before and after surgery.
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong disease that can be difficult to manage. There are many treatments available, but no cure. The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and flares. Ulcerative colitis can be a debilitating disease, but with proper treatment, patients can live normal, productive lives.
Disease prevention and management of UC
Since the causes of this disease are not yet known, it is difficult to formulate a list of rules and recommendations to prevent it.
However, it is possible to provide indications to prevent the disease from causing serious consequences.
In the presence of symptoms of the disease, for example, it is essential not to neglect the problem. First contact your doctor, then a competent specialist, in order to identify the cause of the disturbances.
In the event of a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, it will be advisable to undergo periodic checks. To prevent some of the most serious complications of the disease. It will therefore be important to undergo the necessary screening for colon cancer.
It will also be necessary to carefully follow the treatment indicated by the doctor, in order to keep the symptoms of the disease at bay and reduce the levels of inflammation.
Ulcerative colitis and disability
Anyone with colitis and ulcerative colitis is entitled to a disability pension. Patients suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease experience symptoms and disturbances that can have significant repercussions on the quality of life, both socially and at work.
IBDs are often also associated with other diseases and conditions that could increase the rate of disability.
Based on the recognized percentage, the person can take advantage of concessions, leave to undergo checks and treatments and other aids. Ask your doctor for information to submit the application and receive any support.
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Vogue Health Team