Ulcerative colitis – also referred to as colitis or proctitis – is a disease that affects the large intestine, resulting in inflammation and sores. Most patients experience these conditions in the rectum and lower portion of the colon, although it can affect any part of the large intestine. Inflammation in the colon causes diarrhea and, over time, kills the cells lining the colon. In spots where the lining has been compromised, ulcers form and produce pus.
Ulcerative colitis is one of many conditions under the banner of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It is sometimes confused with similar conditions like Crohn’s disease. There are two main differences between the conditions: ulcerative colitis causes a deeper inflammation in the intestinal wall and typically affects the large intestine, although it may be present in other parts of the GI tract.
If you are currently experiencing digestive issues, contact us to make an appointment with Dr. Tabib today. He can diagnose and treat all conditions of the GI tract, including ulcerative colitis.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
Because inflammation is often a natural reaction to a virus or bacterial infection, many doctors postulate that ulcerative colitis is simply an overreaction by the body’s own immune system. This is the leading theory about the cause of ulcerative colitis, although it has not been proven. Patients with ulcerative colitis have immune system abnormalities, although it is not clear if this condition precedes or results from the disease. Emotional distress and diet can trigger symptoms, although neither of these factors causes the disease.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Patients with ulcerative colitis experience a number of common symptoms, which may include one or more of the following:
- Abdominal Pain
- Bloody Diarrhea
- Weight Loss
- Loss of Appetite
- Rectal Bleeding
- Loss of Bodily Fluids / Nutrients
Fortunately, about half of all people with ulcerative colitis experience only mild symptoms. However, in addition to problems in the intestinal tract, some patients may experience problems in completely different areas of the body. Doctors theorize that these conditions are related to the immune system, although no one knows for sure. These conditions may include:
- Eye Inflammation
- Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
- Skin Rash
Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
Diagnosing ulcerative colitis usually begins with a physical examination and blood test. A blood test is usually used to check for two conditions linked with ulcerative colitis: anemia and an elevated white cell count, which usually signifies inflammation somewhere in the body. Your stool may also be tested for bleeding or infection in the intestinal tract.
Other tests may include:
- Barium Enema X-Ray
These tests allow Dr. Tabib to see inside your large intestine to check for abnormalities, such as inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding. He may also collect a tissue sample to perform a biopsy.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
There are a number of treatments for ulcerative colitis, ranging from simple lifestyle changes and medications to surgery. The best course of action for you will depend on the severity of your condition, although most people do well on medication. Dr. Tabib can recommend the best course of action for you once he has determined the extent of your condition.
Dietary changes do little to treat ulcerative colitis, but they can help you control your symptoms. You may be advised to avoid certain foods, including dairy, raw fruits and vegetables, and large amounts of seasoning.
Drug therapy is usually effective for helping patients control the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis. There are several groups of drugs available:
Other medications may be used to alleviate symptoms, including pain, diarrhea, and infection.
Somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of ulcerative colitis patients require surgery at some point. These procedures are used to remove the colon. This treatment is usually recommended for patients whose condition is unresponsive to medication or who have adverse reactions to the medication. It is also used in cases of severe illness, colon rupture, massive bleeding, or the risk of cancer.
To get your ulcerative colitis under control, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tabib today.