Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine and rectum. The affected parts may develop ulcers or sores, become red, and swollen. It may also bleed. This condition occurs mostly between the age group of 15 years to 35 years of age. Ulcerative colitis tends to recur with intermittent flare ups and intervals of asymptomatic condition.

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, however, abnormal immune response may have a role. Inflammation of the intestine may happen due to the abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system towards bacteria that are normally thriving in the intestine. This causes swelling of the intestine.

Emotional stress and spicy irritant foods are factors that are found to be triggering ulcerative colitis. Hereditary factors (running in the family) are also found to be responsible for ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms

Here is a list of symptoms of ulcerative colitis. They are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleed causing rectal bleeding
  • Heavy blood loss may lead to anemia
  • Inflamed intestines may become irritated
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of body fluids and nutrients
  • Fever

Here is a list of symptoms of ulcerative colitis. They are:

  • Weight loss
  • Growth failure in children

 

  • Mouth sores
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red and painful
  • Swelling
  • Pain in joints
  • Kidney stone
  • Osteoporosis (porous bone with increased risk of fracture)
  • Liver problems like hepatitis (inflammation of liver), cirrhosis (chronic form of liver disease) and primary sclerosing cholangitis(scarring of bile ducts of liver)
  • Skin sores
  • Rashes

Diagnosis

To diagnose ulcerative colitis, blood tests are done to check for presence of antibodies, anemia or any infection.

The stools are tested for presence of white blood cells which are indicative of ulcerative colitis, and also to rule out disorders caused by any parasites, virus or bacteria.

Colonoscopy may be done to check for any abnormalities in the large intestine; the procedure involves passing of a tube with a camera at its end into the colon. A barium enema is done if colonoscopy cannot be performed. In this procedure, a barium dye is passed into the colon through enema (liquids are introduced into colon through anus). The barium coats the lining of the intestine, enabling the visualization of these areas to detect any abnormalities.

To visualize the sigmoid (last part of colon), a flexible tube with a light at its end is used, a procedure known as Flexible Sigmoidoscopy.

 

A CT scan and X ray of pelvis or abdomen are done if doctor suspects any abnormality or perforations in the colon.

Treatment

Diet control, stress management, and medications are important approaches for the treatment of ulcerative colitis.

The medications used to reduce inflammation are called anti-inflammatory drugs and include sulfasalazine (azulfidine), mesalamaine (Rowasa, Asacol), balsalazide (colazal), olsalazine (dipentum). In addition, corticosteroids may be given to reduce swelling; prednisolone is one such drug.

The immune system suppressors reduce the reaction of the body’s immune system towards natural bacteria in the intestine and they include drugs like cyclosporine (Gengraf, sandimmune, neural), Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), mercaptopurine (Purinethol) and infliximab (Remicade).

To help in relieving other symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis other medications like pain killers, antibiotics, antidiarrheals like loperamide and iron supplements are prescribed by the doctor.

Surgery is advised when the symptoms do not come under control with medication. Surgery involves removal of severely affected part of colon. In a surgical procedure known as proctocolectomy the entire affected colon and rectum are surgically removed.

Diet

People suffering from ulcerative colitis find that certain foods aggravate the symptoms and so they should be careful regarding diet.

The foods that aggravate the symptoms are fiber rich foods like dried fruits, beans, lentils, sprouts, whole meal bread, high fiber breakfast cereals make the diarrhea worsen; lactose, beer and other alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, spicy foods and onions.

The diet should be low fiber, low salt, low fat, lactose free and a high calorie diet.

Keep stress at bay

It has been found that stress including emotional stress aggravates ulcerative colitis. You must practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and exercise daily.

You can pursue a hobby you like and try spending good time with your family and friends to keep your mind away from stress.