Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Ulcerative Colitis
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

UC is an inflammatory bowel disease popularly known as IBD. A type of the colitis, a disease that affects the colon, Ulcerative colitis’ main symptom includes open sores or ulcers. When the disease is active, the patient usually suffers from a gradual onset unchanging bloodstained diarrhea. It is easy to mistake IBD for IBS – irritable bowel syndrome.

Ulcerative colitis and the Crohn’s disease, another type of IBD, exhibit some kind of similarities. An intermittent disease, UC is characterized by both aggravated and symptom-free periods. However, the fact that these symptoms can at times disappear without any medication, it is advisable that in case you fall victim to the disease seek medication in order to ensure that the disease has been effectively put under control*. Studies show that there occur 1 to 20 UC incidences in 100,000 people and that the prevalence rate in the same population (100,000) ranges from 6 to 246 cases.

According to proven* researches, this kind of disease occurs mostly in northern countries of the world and other northern regions of particular nations. In more affluent countries, the disease tends to occur on a higher rate as compared to countries that are economically unstable. This is attributed to the fact that diagnosis in the developed countries is a common practice.

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

There is no known cause of ulcerative colitis; however, it is presumed that genetic factors play a vital role in the spread of the disease. In some cases, environmental factors can increase* the risks of a more vulnerable individual. Although there are indications that a good diet reduces* the effects of the disease, it has not been established whether diet plays a critical role in the cause. Stress has also been cited as a cause of this condition.

Genetic factors increase* the risks of ulcerative colitis in a number of ways:

  • It enhances* the multiplication of the disease in families
  • In identical twins, the rate is 10% while in dizygotic twins, it reduces* to 3%
  • Genetic linkages and markers
  • Differences in ethnic incidences

Environmental factors have also been largely associated with ulcerative colitis and these include:

  • Diet – The fact that the colon is open to different types of dietary substances; it is believed that inflammation caused by some of these substances increase* the chances of developing ulcerative colitis
  • Breastfeeding – Breastfeeding has been largely associated with a reduction* in the rate of UC

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

In most cases, symptoms of Ulcerative colitis are highly dependent on the duration of the disease. Bloodstained diarrhea mixed with mucus of an onset that occurs gradually and persists for a long time is the main symptom in patients. Due to this, patients may lose* weight and blood stains are evident on the rectal examination. Inflammation that occurs due to this disease combined with blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract increase* anemic levels in patients. Abdominal pains may also accompany the disease and these ranges from mild to severe pains during the bowel movement or abdominal cramping that is also painful.

When to Seek Medical Care?

This form of IBD can sometimes be very debilitating and lethal. It is good to seek medical attention once you see the symptoms. The good thing to note is that these symptoms do not occur suddenly but take a long period of time. In most cases, ulcerative colitis is known to attack the innermost part of the colon and rectum. It develops through the constant stretches of the colon, quite different from the way Crohn’s disease occurs. Although there is no known cure* for this condition, your doctor may suggest some kind of therapies to help reduce* the effects.

Ulcerative Diagnosis

Ulcerative diagnosis includes:

  • A total blood count is necessary to establish whether the patient is at any risk of developing anemia
  • Renal function and electrolyte study tests are carried out to determine the cause of chronic diarrhea as it may have been caused by other factors like hypomagnesaemia, hypokalemia and pre-renal failure
  • Test on the functioning of the liver to establish whether bile duct is involved (primary sclerosing chollangitis)
  • X-ray
  • Stool culture to check for any infectious or parasitic causes
  • Urinalysis
  • Measuring of the erythrocyte sedimentation (increased levels of sedimentation indicate the presence of inflammation)

As such, it is important to inquire about the unusual factors that trigger the disease. Having quit smoking recently, having taken in higher doses of vitamin B6 or iron in the recent times, and hydrogen peroxide in enemas, are some of the factors that could lead to this disease.

Ulcerative Colitis Self-Care at Home

Instead of waiting until you see a doctor, there are ways you can effectively deal with ulcerative colitis at home. You can opt for a dietary plan that is favorable to you. Although it looks expensive especially if you realize that the foods you have to eat are special but compared to what medication could cost, self-care at home is far much better* and cheaper. Learning how to go about the whole thing at home can be quite rewarding. Eat well and observe other important things to help you come out of the situation.

Ulcerative Colitis Diet

When you are suffering form ulcerative colitis, it is important that you eat a balanced diet which is rich complex carbohydrates, protein, good fats and whole grains. These foods are important in the sense that they provide your body with the energy required to keep you strong. Foods such as fish, meat, dairy and poultry, cereals and bread, vegetables and fruits and margarine and oils are recommended for UC patients.

What Care is Needed After Surgery?

After undergoing surgery, incision care is required as it is essential for ensuring* that infections as well as other serious complications do not occur. When you observe a good incision care together with help from your surgeon, chances are that you will prevent scars. Take about 10 to 20 minutes daily to take care of your incision.

Ulcerative Colitis Prognosis

Most patients who have ulcerative colitis exhibit alternating courses. This involves both inactivity and disease flares. Patients suffering from left-sided colitis or proctitis in most cases, show a benign type of course. It is estimated that about 15% of these patients advance with their condition proximally while 20% have their symptoms disappear without any medication. However, those with extensive disease attack have very little hope of attaining any remission. But this depends entirely on the gravity of the condition.

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Author

Expert Author : Lisiana Carter (Consumer Health Digest)

Lisiana Carter has been a freelance health writer for over ten years having written books, blogs and articles. She is the author of a number of websites and teaches people how to enter the freelance writing field.