With Crohn's disease,
ulcerative colitis is one
of the two main types
of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition that affects not only the physical, but also the psychological health of the affected person. If you are diagnosed with this disease, it is very important to get acquainted with it. If you are well-informed through consultation with health professionals, you can identify the best approach to preserving your health and quality of life.
What is ulcerative colitis and what causes it?
Ulcerative colitis is, in addition to Crohn’s disease, one of the two main types of chronic and inflammatory bowel diseases. It often affects the rectum, but it can also affect the entire colon, and causes ulceration of the intestinal mucosa.
Women and men are equally at risk. It mostly occurs between the ages of fifteen and thirty.
Despite numerous studies, the cause of ulcerative colitis has not yet been established, but it is assumed that it occurs due to several interlinked factors such as genes, the environment and the inappropriate reaction of the immune system to bacteria in the intestine, which attacks its own body ‘by mistake’.
Similar to Crohn’s disease, the risk of getting the illness is the lowest among people of Asian and Hispanic origin, and the highest among people of European origin and, in particular, Ashkenazi Jews.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Some of the typical symptoms are:
It is important you know that the symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary from person to person and can also change over time. In some cases, the symptoms are occasional and mild, and in others severe and persistent.
Complications and risks
Ulcerative colitis can cause additional complications such as intestine narrowing (strictures), bowel perforations and fulminant colitis with frequent bloody stools. In addition, the disease can also manifest itself extraintestinally and cause you problems with the skin, eyes, joints, kidneys, liver and hair loss.
Anemia is one of the most common extraintestinal manifestations of ulcerative colitis and is often accompanied by mouth ulcers.
If you have an inflammation of the intestine for several years, you are also at a slightly higher risk of colorectal cancer. Therefore, it is advisable to establish regular preventive tests in consultation with your doctor. It is especially important that you react in a timely manner if your child has ulcerative colitis because an inflammation of the intestine can cause problems in the development of the child.
How does ulcerative colitis affect your health?
Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the mucous membrane of your intestine, and typical “behaviour” of the disease of the alteration of aggravations and remissions. When you are in the stage of aggravation, the inflammation causes more severe symptoms, while the symptoms fade and disappear during remission.
Diagnosis and treatment of ulcerative colitis
If you have typical symptoms and signs of ulcerative colitis, your doctor will refer you to tests that will include a physical examination, a stool analysis and a blood sample. Where necessary, further examinations may include endoscopic testing, magnetic resonance imaging and CT.
Unfortunately, there is still no cure for ulcerative colitis. The specific treatment depends on the specific case of ulcerative colitis, and various drugs are used. The aim of the treatment is to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, prevent possible occurrence of colorectal cancer and maintain the disease in remission.
If the medication does not help you sufficiently and the disease significantly affects the quality of your life, there is also a possibility of surgery.
The main procedure types of are colectomy, colon removal of and proctocolectomy, which is the removal of the rectum and anus are removed along with the colon. In the event of proctocolectomy, the surgeon will separate the end of your small intestine and make a permanent ileostomy, an opening through which your body will discharge digested food, in the abdominal cavity.
In the case of ileostomy, you should use a pouching system to collect the digested material. Ileostomy is sometimes necessary in the case of colectomy.
Although these procedures permanently remove the entire colon or a part of it, it is important that you know that they are done rarely, only as a last resort, with the aim of preserving your health and improving the quality of your life.
What can you do if you have ulcerative colitis?
It is very important that you familiarise yourself with your disease, openly communicate with health professionals and actively participate in finding the best solution for your condition. This means, first and foremost, a healthy approach to life, regular exercise and avoiding of so-called “trigger” symptoms of the disease such as stress and specific foods.
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