Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory disorder that affects the digestive tract. Specifically, the condition only affects the large intestine and rectum, in contrast to Crohn's disease which affects the entirety of the gastrointestinal tract. Though there is no direct cause, many factors can increase the risk of contracting the condition, such as diet and genetics. As a result, there is no cure for ulcerative colitis. Instead, the condition is managed through the use of medication and lifestyle changes, with the desire to place the disease back into remission. While ulcerative colitis significantly impacts on the quality of life for patients, it is not thought to increase the risk of mortality.

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Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis are typically limited to the colon, and a variety of symptoms may manifest. The exact symptoms experienced by the patient will depend upon which part of the colon is inflamed and, consequently, each patient may present the condition differently.

  • Diarrhea (accompanied by blood and/or mucus)
  • Incomplete evacuation of feces during defecation
  • Weight loss
  • Marked abdominal pain
  • Cramps during defecation

The presence of a fever in ulcerative colitis is indicative of more severe inflammation that has spread beyond its initial site of infection.

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

There is no known immediate cause of ulcerative colitis, though many factors can heighten the risk.

Still, there is a considerable genetic component - as those who have relatives with UC are more likely to contract the disease themselves. Environmental factors - such as stress and diet - have demonstrated a role in not only intensifying the risk of contracting UC, but also the risk of avoiding remission when the disease is active.

Each patient will be consulted about their own lifestyle, as it's these factors that can give rise to exacerbations in ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis

Part of the challenge when it comes to diagnosing ulcerative colitis comes from its non-specific symptoms.

  • The central symptom, diarrhea, is common to hundreds of conditions, so it may be initially difficult for the physician to filter down the cause as UC.
  • Persistent diarrhea, accompanied by blood or mucus, means that the doctor will be compelled to take further, more specific, tests.
  • Along with a full blood count to measure inflammatory factors, the patient may be referred for an endoscopy. This procedure involves the use of an imaging device within the colon, permitting the specialist to view active inflammation.
  • A biopsy may also be taken at this point to determine whether the tissue is typical of what's seen in ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

Given that ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition, the mainstay of treatment involves the use of one, or several, anti-inflammatory medications.

  • Drugs such as mesalazine, prednisone, and infliximab serve to reduce inflammation and propel the patient toward remission.
  • Patients may also be prescribed iron, as this mineral is often deficient in people with UC due to the chronic effects of diarrhea.
  • In severely afflicted patients, surgical removal of part or the entire colon may be required.
  • Dietary changes will be recommended, as diets rich in fatty foods, alcohol, and smoking decrease the risk at which remission is achieved.

Main Ulcerative Colitis Drugs

Prednisone Humira Imuran

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