What is Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is this disease about?

It is also known as inflammatory bowel disease, as it mainly affects the large intestine, colon and rectum. In this chronic condition, the colon and rectum become inflamed developing ulcers or sores that generate bleeding and diarrhea, which are characteristic of Ulcerative Colitis.

The cause of Ulcerative Colitis is not yet known, since the immune system is involved, but it is not clear exactly how it occurs. This disease affects men and women equally at any age, but often occurs between 15 and 30 years, or at a more adult age, from 50 to 70 years.

Ulcerative Colitis is the result of an abnormal response of your body’s immune system. Normally, the cells and proteins that make up the immune system protect you from infection.

In people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, however, the immune system confuses food, bacteria and other materials in the intestine with foreign substances or invaders. When this happens, the body sends white blood cells to the lining of the intestines, where chronic inflammation and ulcerations occur.

Likewise, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are types of inflammatory bowel diseases, which should not be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a disorder that affects muscle contractions of the colon.

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with this condition, it is important to start learning as much as you can about what this disease is. By developing a better understanding of Ulcerative Colitis, you will be more prepared to manage your symptoms and live a full life.

What are the causes of Ulcerative Colitis?

Although considerable progress has been made in UC research, researchers still do not know what causes this disease.

Studies indicate that inflammation involves a complex interaction of factors: the genes of the person he has inherited, the immune system, and the environment.

Foreign substances (antigens) in the environment can be the direct cause of inflammation, or they can stimulate the body’s defenses to produce an inflammation that continues without control.

Researchers believe that once the patient’s immune system is “activated”, the patient’s immune system does not know how to shut down properly at the right time. As a result, inflammation damages the intestine. That is why the main objective of medical therapy is to help patients regulate their immune system so that it works better.

Some of the complications of Ulcerative Colitis are:

  • Colon cancer
  • Inflammation in other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, and joints
  • Liver disease
  • Osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones
  • The toxic megacolon

How to identify if this condition occurs?

Your doctor will first identify the usual symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis, which are diarrhea, usually with blood, abdominal pain, and fever. After this, several tests will be performed in order to confirm if it is Ulcerative Colitis.

These tests include:

  • Colonoscopy (Cameras are used to see inside the intestine)
  • X-rays (computerized tomography)
  • Stool samples to check for bacteria (sign of infection) and white blood cells (inflammation signal)
  • Blood tests for anemia
  • The sedimentation rate, an indicator of inflammation

symptom

Symptoms manifest when there is worsening of inflammation, which can range from mild to severe; In some people they disappear for months or even years, but for the most part, the symptoms eventually return.

Mild symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include rectal bleeding, rectal pain or difficulty defecating , cramping, fever, pain moving to the left side, and involuntary weight loss.

Serious symptoms include bloody diarrhea accompanied by abdominal cramps, fatigue and significant weight loss, as well as severe pain, dehydration and shock (rare).

Joint pain, herpes in the mouth, nausea, vomiting, skin ulcers and anemia may also occur.

The symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis tend to come and go, with fairly long periods, asthma attacks in which patients may experience no difficulty at all. These periods of remission can span months or even years, although symptoms return over time.

How to help control the symptoms:

  • Try to eat small foods more often.
  • Eating more fiber can sometimes help eliminate diarrhea, but it can also aggravate your symptoms.
  • Do not consume gaseous foods such as beans, cabbage and broccoli.
  • Avoid fatty or fried foods as these can cause more gas and diarrhea because your body may not be able to completely absorb the fat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid the consumption of alcohol and caffeine.

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for ulcerative colitis . In fact, the only known cure is to surgically remove part or all of the colon.

This condition can be stopped with surgery. The complete resection, that is, the removal of the entire large intestine, will thus stop the symptoms of colitis with ulcers completely.

However, the so-called total colectomy is associated with other adverse effects. Therefore, sometimes a partial colectomy is carried out instead of a total one, where only the diseased part of the colon is eliminated.

The surgery is not suitable for all people. The partial colectomy or total reserved for patients with severe ulcerative colitis, where eruptions are frequent and involve large areas of colon.

Bowel resection surgery may be an option for patients who are dependent on corticosteroids for a long time and / or have had ulcerative colitis for at least seven years. As much as half or a third of patients will require partial or total colectomy during the course of their Ulcerative Colitis.