Ulcerative Colitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatments
In ulcerative colitis, inflammation begins in the rectum and can migrate to the colon. Symptoms may be persistent or intermittent. Diarrhea, weight loss, abdominal discomfort, anemia, and blood or pus in bowel movements are some of the symptoms.
What is ulcerative colitis?
According to Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation, ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition of the large intestine in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and ulcers form. This disorder is caused by your immune system’s overreaction.
Several types of ulcerative colitis include:
- Ulcerative proctitis: is usually the mildest form. The inflammation is limited to the region nearest to the anus (rectum), and rectal bleeding is the only symptom.
- Proctosigmoiditis: The rectum and sigmoid colon, the bottom end of the colon, are involved in inflammation. The patients will suffer from bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and pain, and an inability to empty the bowels.
- Left-sided colitis: causes cramps on the left side of your stomach. You will also have bloody diarrhea and may lose weight without even trying. Inflammation spreads from your rectum to the left side of your colon.
- Pancolitis: This type frequently impacts the entire colon, resulting in severe episodes of bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps and agony, exhaustion, and substantial weight loss.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis symptoms vary from person to person, with roughly half of all ulcerative colitis patients experiencing minor symptoms. Consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Constipation that is both loose and urgent
- Cramping and discomfort in the abdomen
- Consistent diarrhea, stomach discomfort
- Blood in the stool
Apart from that, patients with ulcerative colitis may experience other bad conditions affecting their quality of life such as appetite and weight loss, nausea, fever, fatigue and a lack of energy, and anemia.
What causes ulcerative colitis
It appears that heredity plays a part in the possibility of getting ulcerative colitis in persons who have family members with the condition. People having a first-degree family with ulcerative colitis tend to get the illness. Approximately 30 genes that may enhance susceptibility to the illness have been found in recent years.
Impaired immune system
Another factor contributing to this condition is the malfunction of immunity. When a virus or bacterium invades, your immune system will have an abnormal immune response which then attacks the cells in the digestive tract.
The environment may accelerate the development of ulcerative colitis. However, researchers are still investigating how people’s surroundings interact with their genes, immune systems, and microbiomes to influence their risk of developing ulcerative colitis.
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis
Blood test results in ulcerative colitis may show anemia and symptoms of inflammation. Bowel motion samples usually reveal the presence of blood, pus, and mucus. Other tests, such as a high level of C-reactive protein and a high sedimentation rate, show inflammation.
An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube equipped with a small camera. Doctors can insert an endoscope via the anus to examine the rectum and colon. Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy are two common endoscopic procedures.
- Colonoscopy lets doctors see your whole colon through a thin, flexible, illuminated tube with a camera attached to the end. During the process, your doctor may collect tiny tissue biopsies for laboratory investigation.
- Sigmoidoscopy helps doctors examine the rectum and sigmoid colon with a thin, flexible, lighted tube. If your colon is inflamed excessively, your doctor may order this test instead of a complete colonoscopy.
Barium X-ray examinations can assist determine how much of the colon is impacted by ulcerative colitis. A tube put through the anus is used to inject the barium into the rectum and colon. A series of X-rays are taken, revealing the contour of the colon’s interior and emphasizing any anomalies.
Treatments for ulcerative colitis
Medication for ulcerative colitis can reduce intestinal inflammation and allow tissues to recover. Effective medicine can help lessen and manage symptoms such as diarrhea, bleeding, and stomach discomfort.
Anti-inflammatory medicines are frequently used as the initial step in the therapy of ulcerative colitis and are suitable for the vast majority of patients. These medications include 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA), which reduces inflammation and helps manage symptoms. You may be given tablets to take, an enema, or a suppository to place in your bottom.
A corticosteroid or budesonide may be required if you have a severe case of ulcerative colitis. Corticosteroids are only recommended for short-term usage due to their substantial adverse effects.
In addition, an immunomodulator may be recommended by your doctor. 6-mercaptopurine, azathioprine, and methotrexate are examples of such medications. These drugs assist in calming an overactive immune system.
Biologics cure moderate to severe ulcerative colitis by suppressing components of the immune system.
Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors are another medical option. For example, tofacitinib is a drug that prevents one of your body’s enzymes from causing inflammation.
If drugs aren’t working or you have issues such as bleeding or abnormal growths or precancerous lesions that can evolve into colorectal cancer, surgery is an alternative.
One of two surgical methods may be indicated depending on a variety of circumstances, which are the degree of the disease and the patient’s age and overall condition. The first procedure includes removing the whole colon and rectum and creating an ileostomy or external stoma.
Many patients can now benefit from new surgical methods that have been developed to provide an alternative choice. This treatment also involves the removal of the colon, however, it does not require an ileostomy. The surgeon can retain intestinal integrity and eliminate the requirement for the patient to use a piece of external ostomy equipment by constructing an internal pouch from the small bowel and linking it to the anal sphincter muscle.
It is critical for people with ulcerative colitis to maintain appropriate nutrition because the condition typically suppresses appetite while increasing energy needs. Eating more low-fat meals may help to prevent flare-ups. Olive oil and omega-3 fatty acids are examples of healthier sources of fat. Additionally, vitamin C may protect your intestines and aid in their healing or recovery after a flare-up. People who consume vitamin C-rich diets had longer periods of ulcerative colitis remission. Eating more fiber may also increase the ease with which waste materials are eliminated during bowel movements.