Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that results in chronic inflammation of the large intestine, and rectum. The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, cramping, and fatigue. It is characterized by relapsing and remitting inflammation of the lining of the colon. About 30% of patients in remission will experience a reoccurrence of symptoms within a year. The aim of treatment is to induce and maintain remission.
Ulcerative colitis typically affects people between the ages 30-40, but it can occur at any age. It affects men and women equally. UC is a disabling disease that has a significant impact on a patient’s life. There is no known cure, but there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms.
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it is believed to be a combination of a genetic predisposition, about 20% of patients with UC have a relative with IBD, and environmental factors. It is thought that ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
The most common symptom of ulcerative colitis is frequent bloody diarrhea. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Other symptoms may include abdominal pain, cramping, fatigue, weight loss, and fever. Ulcerative colitis may also cause joint pain, eye irritation, and skin rashes. Additionally, UC can cause severe complications such as bleeding, bowel rupture, an increased risk of colon cancer, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, anemia, and vitamin D deficiency.
About 30% of patients have mild to moderate disease. About 20% have moderate disease and 1-2% have severe disease.
Ulcerative colitis is typically diagnosed by colonoscopy and the findings of a tissue biopsy. Your Gastroenterologist will review your medical history, perform a physical examination, and order laboratory tests.
There is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, but there are treatments that can help to manage the symptoms. Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressants, and antibiotics may be used. Topical and systemic steroids may be used to treat flareups. Immunosuppressants and biological drugs are used to treat moderate to severe disease.
Surgery to remove the colon is also an option for some people with ulcerative colitis. The surgical procedure, a colectomy, is needed in up to 15% of patients with UC.
Studies report that patients with active ulcerative colitis who are treated to achieve clinical remission using tight controls who achieve and maintain symptomatic remission and consecutive endoscopies have a low risk of relapse.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that requires lifelong management. It is important to work with your clinician at Gastroenterology Associates of Brooklyn to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. Some people with ulcerative colitis are able to maintain symptom control with medication, while others may need surgery. Regardless of the treatment approach, it is important to eat a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and manage stress.