Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes irritation and ulcers in the colon and/or the rectum. While there is no cure for the disease, there are treatments that can greatly reduce the symptoms of the disease and even bring about a long-term remission.
What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?
While the exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, researchers believe that it may be a result of an overactive immune system. Symptoms usually develop over time rather than suddenly. As far as we know, diet and stress may aggravate the condition but do not cause it. Heredity may also play a role.
Risk Factors Include
Family history: If you have a parent or sibling with UC, you have a higher risk of developing the disease.
Race or ethnicity: Whites have higher risk, but UC can occur in any race. People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent are at the highest risk.
Age: UC usually begins before the age of 30, but it can occur at any age.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary, and may include:
- Rectal pain and bleeding (small amounts of blood with stool)
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
- Weight Loss
Tests to confirm a diagnosis of UC includes:
Blood test: to check for anemia or signs of infection
Stool sample: presence of white blood cells in your stool can indicate UC.
Colonoscopy: Your doctor will insert a long flexible tube into your rectum to examine your colon. During this procedure, the doctor may also take small samples of tissue (biopsy) for laboratory analysis
Flexible sigmoidoscopy: Your doctor uses a flexible tube to examine your rectum and sigmoid (the last portion of your colon). If the colon is severely inflamed, this test may be performed instead of a full colonoscopy.
X-ray: usually performed if you have severe symptoms, to rule out complications
CT scan: a scan of your abdomen or pelvis may be performed if your doctor suspects a complication, or to assess the extent of colon inflammation
Treatment of ulcerative colitis usually involves medications or surgery.
The type of medication prescribed will depend on the severity and location of your condition. The goal of therapy is to reduce and suppress inflammation leading to symptom reduction and often remission.