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What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis, scientifically known as Colitis ulcerosa is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), in which some sores or ulcers are formed in the colon of the human body. The specifications and symptoms of the disease are very much like ulcers. The disease forms open sores and inflammation, which are very painful. The sores formed in the disease kill cells around the colon and then make it bleed or full of pus. This stage further causes diarrhea mix with blood, occuring gradually in the body.
Colitis itself means disease of intestine, and hence the naming of the disease is done according to the part of intestine it is affecting. Ulcerative proctitis happens when the sores occur in the lower part of the colon or in the rectum. Limited or distal colitis is the name given to the sores occurring in the left side of the colon. In addition, if the whole colon gets infected, then it is called as pancolitis.
In accordance to symptoms ulcerative colitis is quite similar to Crohn’s disease, but dissimilarity occurs in the range of affected parts of these diseases. As ulcerative colitis affects the colon only but Crohn can affect other parts also, like the small intestine, mouth, esophagus, and stomach.
The disease is affecting near about 0.1% of the total population in the US and is mostly spreading out in the northern part of the world. However, people of any age, irrespective of the gender, can get affected by it. Cases are seen more from the people who are between 15 to 30 years old, then people from 50 to 70 years.
Actual cause behind the disease is still not clear, but change in dietary routine can certainly provide some relief from the discomfort it is causing.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis depend on the severity or the stage it is affecting the patient. Generally, in every case pain in the abdomen and diarrhea with blood stints are noticed. These symptoms can accompany weight loss, arthritic pain in the knees, rectal bleeding, anemia, weakness, fatigue, and improper growth in children.
Symptoms of the disease add or reduce according to the severity level it is affecting. Like:
Mild cases of the disease accompany symptoms like less number of stools in a day as compare to severe case. The frequency to bowel movements is around 4 in a day and it can be with or without blood. Abdominal pain is mild in nature with a feeling of tenesmus.
Moderate cases of the diseases accompany symptoms like four stools in a day with abdominal pain. Anemia and mild fever are also seen in some cases.
Severe cases of the disease accompany high frequency of toxic stools, more than six in a day, with high fever, and clear display of anemia.
Highly severe or fulminant cases in itself display the dangerous stage of the disease and accompany more than 10 bloody stools in a day with colonic dilation and abdominal tenderness. In this condition, the patient might require to go for blood transfusion. If not treated properly, the condition can lead to death of the patient.
It is found that the mortality rate of this disease is not very high, but it affects the quality of life of the patient
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
Actual cause for ulcerative colitis is still unknown, but many hypothetical research had tried to give some reasons behind it. Some of them are given below:
Autoimmune disease: Ulcerative colitis is considered as an autoimmune disease, which happens when the immune system of the body stops working properly. Contradiction to this is that the surgical removal of intenstine helps in curing this disease. The result does not show any relation of the disease to the immune system.
Genetic research: Some hypothetical research have shown that there are some genetic factors behind the disease. It is considered that if a person is having family history of this disease, then he is having high chances of getting affected to it. To justify the result, 12 regions of genome associated with the disease were displayed. The result indicates that the disease can occur due to some genetic disorders, associated with some autoimmune disorders.
Some external factors like diet and breastfeeding are considered to be the causes behind the disease.
Diet: It is found that some dietory components can take to the inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcderative colitis. Resarch are still on to provide complete justification. It is advisable to have more and more digestive fiber in the meal to prevent from this disease.
Breastfeeding: Some hypothetical result shows that due to insufficient breastfeeding, immune system of the baby does not grow properly. Hence, these autoimmune diseases harm mostly in these type of cases.
Some side theories are there which say that people with ulcerative colitis have high level of sulfate-reducing bacteria. This indicates that ulcerative colitis can happen to those having high level of hydrogen sulfide in their intestine.
Emotional stress and allergy to some type of food product are considered to be some triggering factors behind ulcerative colitis. Protection from these factors help in curing much faster.
Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis
In the initial stage of diagnosis, doctors ask questions about the medical history of the patient including occurrence of any chronic or genetic disease or allergic to some specific component.
Thereafter, physical examinations are done along with blood tests to check the presence of anemia. Blood tests also indicate the presence of inflammation in the body by analyzing the increase in the white blood cell count.
With this, stool tests are done to check the presence of blood and mucous in the bowel movements. Other than blood, the tests can also indicate the presence of bacteria in the body.
On the basis of the results obtained, the doctor might recommend to go for colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, and x-ray examinations to better view the condition of intestine.
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Treatment is given after examining the condition or the severity level of the disease in the body.
Treatment starts by giving some medicines to the patient. Medicines or the drugs that are advisable to the disease include sulfasalazine, mesalazine, Colazal, and Dipentum containing Aminosalicylates.
Steroids like corticosteroids including Cortisone, Prednisone, Cortifoam, and Methylpredisolone are given for the treatment process. The drugs prescribed are given for short term only, as they can cause certain side effects on the patient’s body. Some of the side effects include increase in weight due to hormonal changes, depression, overexcitment, weakness in the bones, extra hair growth, and high risks of getting some other infection.
To cure acute affect of ulcerative colitis, clexane containing low molecular weight heparin is given. Whereas, some mild medicines are given in normal condition to cure diarrhea and vomiting.
Hospitalization is very much required when the disease does not get cured by giving these medicines. Late treatment can lead to the death of the patient due to lost of excessive blood from the body. High-level treatments including surgeries are possible in hospital only.
Surgery: If the disease becomes very severe and is impossible to be treated by medication only, then doctors recommend to go for surgical treatment. Surgery completely removes the large intenstine from the body. Basically, patients with toxic megacolon are advised to go for surgery to improve their quality of life. Colon removal is done in very rare cases, when some extra-intestinal manifestations happens in the body.
Ileostomy is done to create small opening in the abdomen, from where waste accumulated in the body can be easily taken out.
Ileoanal anastomosis is done to remove colon, but bowel movements are normal in this case.
Change in diet: Diet modification or new diet can be advised to treat ulcerative colitis. Change in the diet is done while considering several factors like the routine and balance of bowel movements remain intact. High intake of dietary fibers are recommended to maintain easy and smooth bowel movements. One can easily get high fibers from food and agricultual products like brassica and oatmeal.
Intake of around 180 to 1500mg of Eicosapentaenoic acid, obtained from fish oil, on daily basis, is highly recommended to treat ulcerative colitis and cardiac problems.
Herbal products: Patients with this disease feel great relief after consuming medications and food products that are herbal in nature.
Prevention from Ulcerative Colitis
Prevention from this disease is very much important for the people who are having family history of it. They should take care of their diet and should consume high amount of dietary fibers. The patient should avoid smoking and drinking, because these habits cause obstruction in the healing process. And, he should try to take less emotional and physical stress.