Ulcerative Colitis is one of two conditions typically suffered by people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Every year, about 200,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. alone, making it a fairly common condition. Unfortunately, ulcerative colitis is also chronic, which means that there is no known cure for it, and it’s also a high-risk factor in the development of colon cancer.
Despite this, the condition is highly manageable with proper treatment and care. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, it’s important to understand how the disease affects you and what you should remain aware of.
Here’s everything you need to know about ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The disease causes the colon to suffer from long-lasting inflammation, which often leads to a variety of other complications such as severe bleeding, severe dehydration, or a perforation (hole) in the colon.
The most common side effect of ulcerative colitis are ulcers in the digestive tract. These ulcers often produce pus and mucus, which lead to frequent emptying of the colon and bloody stools. It’s important to keep in mind that symptoms may vary from mild to severe and they usually appear more over time.
Other side effects and symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
• Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
• Abdominal pain or cramping
• Rectal pain
• Rectal bleeding
• Urgency to defecate
• Inability to defecate despite the urgency
• Weight loss
• Poor growth in children
Depending on the severity or progression of the disease, a colorectal specialist will recommend either medication or surgery. If the condition is not causing severe symptoms or complications, then it may be possible to manage it with medications and lifestyle changes. Typical medications consist of anti-inflammatories, steroids, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, and anti-diarrheal drugs.
If the disease has resulted in permanent or severe damage in the colon, then the best treatment option may be surgery. There are several kinds of surgeries possible, many of which include partial or complete removal of the colon. With partial removals, only the affected part is taken out and the two healthy parts reconnected.
The complete removal of the colon is called a colectomy. Once removed, the small intestine is connected to the rectum to restore a digestive tract. If the rectum has also been damaged by the condition, then a proctocolectomy may be necessary, which is the removal of the colon and the rectum. With a prolectomy, the surgeon also creates a stoma, or wall opening in the abdomen from where a pouch is attached to collect stool.
Managing ulcerative colitis isn’t always easy, but it is possible to lead a regular life with proper treatment and care. If you or someone you know are living with ulcerative colitis and would like more information about the disease or how it is affecting you, give us a call or book an appointment today.