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Ulcerative Colitis: A Comprehensive Overview

Ulcerative Colitis is a condition in which the lining of the colon develop ulcers, or sores, which in turn generate rectal inflammation and a variety of painful symptoms. The condition is one of what are known as inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBSs, and is typically caused when swelling in the rectal area has become severe enough to have destroyed the cells that line the walls of the colon, eventually producing bleeding, prolonged diarrhea, or the presence of pus or blood in the diarrhea or the stool.

Ulcerative Colitis typically manifests in individuals who range in age from their mid-teens to their early thirties. In less frequent cases, it can also manifest in people who are in their fifties, in their sixties, and even in their seventies. It does not seem to favor men over women and is thought to be hereditary, passing from one generation to the next. As noted, the most common symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis are abdominal pain or diarrhea in which blood or pus is evident. However, in addition to these universal symptoms, other symptoms can include fatigue and anemia, rectal bleeding, abrasions on the skin, soreness in the joints, as well as both appetite loss and weight loss. Approximately fifty percent of individuals diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis report relatively mild symptoms, while the other fifty percent experience more severe symptoms, including severe abdominal cramping, nausea and fevers. Although there is no conclusive data yet to support the hypothesis, these more severe symptoms are thought to be the result of immunological failure in the patient.

Ulcerative Colitis’s exact cause or causes as yet remains obscure, although researchers conclusively assert that, unlike Irritable Bowel Syndrome, it is not typically excited by, or the result of, certain dietary habits, foods, spices, or poor stress management. There are several theories proposed why the condition occurs, one of which is outstanding peculiarities in the immune system, which involves the body responding in an abnormal fashion to the bacteria commonly found in the intestines that is responsible for breaking down foods for digestion. This is supported by the apparent correlation between immunological abnormalities and the presence of the disease. Another theory, complimentary to the first, is heredity; the fact that the condition appears to run in families, therefore indicating genetic predisposition as a causal factor.Colitis 2 Ulcerative Colitis is diagnosed through a series of tests, which seek confirmation of conditions that in turn indicate the presence of the disorder. For example, one’s physician will test for anemia, which, if present, might indicate that bleeding in the rectum is occurring. In the event anemia is present, tests will then be performed to determine the exact state of one’s anemic condition, specifically testing for an elevated white blood cell count, which indicates the presence of an infection in the body or the presence of inflammation. Stool samples might also be collected, which can reveal if bleeding is present in the colon as well as allow for one’s physician to rule out the presence of bacterial infection, or the presence of parasites.

Ulcerative Colitis is detected with the greatest accuracy if one undergoes either a colonoscopy or what is known as a sigmoidoscopy, both of which involve the doctor inserting a tool called an endoscope (a long camera that is attached to a monitoring device) into the anus, which then reveals if bleeding, inflammation, or sores on the walls of the anal canal are present. If necessary, material from the anus in the form of tissue might be collected and later biopsied to ensure that colon cancer is not developing.

Ulcerative Colitis affects people differently, depending on a variety of considerations, including one’s individual health and their particular hereditary factors. Because no two cases are identical, no two treatments can be exactly alike. However, because there are also consistent similarities both causally and symptomatically, treatments follow fairly standard procedures. Drug treatments are often prescribed to address the attendant symptoms mentioned previously, and in rarer cases that are more severe, surgery might be recommended. The three drugs that are commonly prescribed to help alleviate symptoms are 1) Aminosalicylates, 2) Corticosteroids, and 3) Immunomodulators. If one does not respond to drug therapy, or if the side-effects produced by the medications become intolerable or further compromise one’s health, surgery or hospitalization may be advised. For example, in the event one experiences heavy bleeding or chronic diarrhea that is severe enough to generate dehydration, it might become necessary to be hospitalized, during which time doctors will replenish bodily fluids, or, if necessary, recommend a procedure to counter the loss of blood.

Ulcerative Colitis is one of the most common IBSs diagnosed today in the United States, and because of this, there is substantial information and a variety of Colitis treatment options available. Current research focuses on the various factors that operate on the immune system, in what ways the immune system is either compromised or activated, the ways in which the disorder impacts the colon, and which treatments best foster rectal healing. It is imperative one remains informed to make the most effective and comprehensive decision possible, which will enable them to successfully treat and prevent a worsening or continuation of Ulcerative Colitis.

David Gilbert received his BA from U.C.L.A. He is currently doing graduate work in psychology at California Graduate Institute, in Los Angeles, CA. Throughout his career in the mental health field he has worked clinically with several populations, and also contributed to academic works whose topics address both health and mental health issues.

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