Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the digestive tract that causes chronic inflammation and ulceration, particularly in the lower colon and rectum. Though the cause is not known, doctors and researchers do believe the condition is an abnormal immune response to healthy bacteria in the gut. Most people with ulcerative colitis experience ‘waves’ of attacks, in which symptoms become severe and then subside. A small percentage of individuals, however, will experience nearly chronic symptoms. While there is no cure, treatment is important for people with this disease, as unmanaged symptoms can lead to life threatening complications and debilitating discomfort.
Did you know…
that most people with ulcerative colitis are not diagnosed with the disease until they reach their late 20s or early 30s? Some of these people have one or more close family members who also have ulcerative colitis, though many people are diagnosed without a known family history of the disease. Other people at increase risk of the disease include Caucasians and people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
People with ulcerative colitis will have varying degrees of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. These may include loose bowels, bloody stools, abdominal cramping or chronic diarrhea. Sometimes ulcerative colitis can cause fatigue and loss of appetite, which may lead to weight loss. Children suffering from the disease may experience stunted growth due to nutritional deficiencies. Symptomatic ‘flare ups’ typically come and go in most individuals, with many weeks, months or even years of remission in between.
How can a colorectal surgeon diagnose ulcerative colitis?
A doctor can diagnose ulcerative colitis based upon patient symptoms, a physical exam and a series of tests, including blood tests, stool sampling and colonoscopy. These tests can identify signs of infection and inflammation, as well as the presence of blood or white blood cells in the stool.
What is the treatment for ulcerative colitis?
Rockville treatment for ulcerative colitis varies depending on the severity of the symptoms a person is experiencing. For those with mild symptoms and long periods of remission, prescription drugs may be enough to prevent flare-ups and reduce symptoms. People with chronic or severe ulcerative colitis may require surgery if their symptoms do not respond to more conservative treatment. Though it requires the removal of the colon and rectum, many patients experience complete and permanent relief from ulcerative colitis after the procedure. Additionally, those individuals whose colon show signs of early colon cancer may need surgery.