Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. It is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. While ulcerative colitis can be managed if detected at the right time, it can also sometimes cause life-threatening complications.
Ulcerative colitis is not usually detected immediately and it takes some time for symptoms to surface, depending on what part of the colon is most inflamed.
Most noticeable symptoms include:
- Prolonged and unexplained fever
- Rectal pain and/or rectal bleeding
- Failure in growth, in children
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Inability to defecate despite urgency
If you have some/any/all of the above symptoms, immediate medical attention is highly advisable.
Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is also dependent on the following factors:
- Ethnicity: While it is likely that a person of any ethnicity could develop this condition, people most prone to ulcerative colitis are those of Jewish descent
- Age: You are most likely to develop ulcerative colitis before the age of 30. People above 30 could also have it but it is unlikely for anyone to develop the condition post 60 years of age
- History of the disease being present in the family
- Usage of isotretinoin which is a drug used to acne or scarring cystic acne
Once your doctor has ruled out all other possibilities and concluded you have ulcerative colitis, he may run the following tests/procedures to confirm the same:
- Blood test
- Stool sample
- CT scan
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy and biopsy
Treatment would be as per your diagnosis and the effects that ulcerative colitis has had on your body, and depending on this, the doctor will prescribe what kind of treatment is required.
The treatment of ulcerative colitis is similar to that of Crohn’s disease – through medication or surgery.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids may be given.
- Immune system suppressors such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, vedolizumab and/or infliximab may be given.
- In addition to these, iron supplements, pain relievers, anti-diarrhoeal drugs and antibiotics may also be given.
- If medication proves futile, doctors may recommend a proctocolectomy which is the surgical removal of the colon.