Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the colon in which tiny open sores and inflammation develop and produce, pus, mucous, and extreme discomfort of the digestive tract. An abnormal response of the body causes the immune system to mistake materials in the intestine for invading substances, and the body sends white blood cells into the intestine lining in an attempt to heal it.
Ulcerative colitis is often confused with Crohn’s disease, however the two are distinctly different. Crohn’s disease affects any and all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, especially the layers of the bowel wall, while ulcerative colitis affects only the lining of the colon. Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and should not be confused with inflammatory bowl syndrome, a similar sounding disease that affects muscle contractions of the colon and does not cause inflammation.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
- Loose, urgent bowel movements
- Persistent diarrhea
- Bloody stool
- Painful abdominal cramping
- Loss of appetite and fatigue.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms come and go, and there can be a long time between flare-ups.
Seeking a Diagnosis
If you suspect or are seeking treatment for ulcerative colitis, you should find a gastroenterologist who is a member of the Chrons and Colitis Foundation Of America. He or she can evaluate your condition.
Stool specimens should be taken and analyzed to eliminate the possibility of bacterial, viral, or parasites. Blood tests should also be taken to check for signs of infection and anemia. Your doctor may recommend endoscopy to visually examine the interior of your colon with a lighted tube that is inserted through the anus.
If necessary, your doctor may perform special procedures to access the inflammation and access colon health. During these procedures, your doctor may take a tissue sample to send to the lab for analysis. All of these procedures are virtually painless and easily accomplished during an outpatient visit. Sometimes blue dye is sprayed on the intestine lining to help identify polyps that may be present.
and consider a variety of medications are available to alleviate the symptoms. Any medications you are taking should be evaluated because they might be making things worse.
A dietitian can help balance your diet to increase specific nutrients and avoid foods that make the flare-ups worse. In severe cases, there are minor surgeries that patients may benefit from. If you currently have no symptoms, no treatment may be needed, but medications may be recommended to make flare-ups less frequent and less painful.