Ulcerative Colitis – A Gut-Wrenching Condition

Ulcerative Colitis – A Gut-Wrenching Condition

Ulcerative Colitis is thought to an autoimmune disease characterized by immune cells infiltrating the colon causing inflammation and ulcers within the digestive tract.

Symptoms can include diarrhea (often with blood or pus), abdominal pain and cramping, rectal pain and bleeding, urgency to defecate without being able to, weight loss, fatigue, fever and in children failure to grow. For the majority of patients, symptoms are mild to moderate but in others the condition can be debilitating, and sometimes life-threatening complications can occur. There is currently no cure for ulcerative colitis, but treatment can be effective in reducing symptoms and may bring about long-term remission.

The exact mechanisms driving ulcerative colitis have not yet been determined. Previously it was though that stress and poor diet may be responsible, but we now know that these may aggravate the condition but are not the underlying cause of it. It is thought that an abnormal immune response which attack cells in the digestive tract is likely.

If your doctor suspects ulcerative colitis the only definitive way to get to a diagnosis are endoscopic procedures with tissue biopsies. Other tests can be performed to rule out complications and other forms of inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease.

It can take time to determine the most compatible treatment approach for each patient. Anti-inflammatory drugs are often the first step in the treatment of ulcerative colitis and appropriate for the majority of people with this condition. Alternatively, or in addition to, patients may be started on an immune suppressor. Other medications that offer relief are anti-diarrheal medications, pain killers (it’s important to discuss which with your doctor as certain painkillers can cause worsening of symptoms), antispasmodics and iron supplements. If the patient does not respond to the above-mentioned treatments surgery may be an alternative.

Patients can help to relieve symptoms and increase time between flare ups by making lifestyle changes.

Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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