Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory health condition that affects the inner most lining, i.e. the mucosa of the large bowel and rectum. The disease is a chronic condition, which progresses slowly over time, but it can be managed with proper care and treatment.
There are no clear precipitating factors of the disease. However, there is evidence of a few of the following things playing a role in the development of the disease:
- Immune system dysfunction. The disease may occur because the immune system, when fighting off some infection, may also elicit an abnormal response to normal GIT mucosa, and attack the cells of the mucosal lining, leading to the inflammation
- Heredity. Family history is also seen in some patients with the disease.
In all patients, the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis may vary according to the degree and location of the inflammation. The symptoms experienced may include:
- Diarrhea (often with blood and pus)
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Urgency to defecate
- Inability to defecate despite the urgency
- Weight loss
- Failure to grow (in children)
Diagnosis of the disease is usually made after excluding other conditions. Some of the following tests can help the doctor reach a diagnosis:
- Complete blood count
- Stool sample
- CT scan
Treatment can be either medical or surgical:
- Anti inflammatory drugs
- Immune system suppression therapy
- Anti-diarrheal medicine
- Pain relievers
- Iron supplementation
Surgical elimination of the entire colon and rectum is curative, but that comes with its own set of complications, so it’s not always desired.