Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disease that is manifested by the development of injured, inflammatory areas – ulcers – on the mucosa of the large intestine. Ulcers can first occur on the rectum – in this case the disease is called proctitis – and it gradually spreads along the colon. In many cases, the disease may over time affect the whole colon. It is not known why some people are more susceptible to this disease.
Symptoms usually occur in an instant in a course of several years. The onset of ulcerative colitis can occur without warning, but also gradually. A characteristic early symptom is pain in the left part of the abdominal cavity, which is alleviated after the stool is expelled; however, this expelling is painful, and the patient will probably have diarrhea. In severe cass, there may be a blood in the stool. Swelling, nausea, lack of appetite and temperature up to 40 °C may occur during severe seizures.
Ulcerative colitis is a relatively rare disease. It is more common in women, younger adults and middle-aged people.
A strong attack of the disease can be dangerous due to large blood loss; besides, toxins that are produced at places that are affected by the ulcers will cause blood poisoning. People who are suffering from ulcerative colitis for 10 years or more are more exposed to the risk of colon cancer.
What to do?
If you have an attack of painful diarrhea, with blood and mucus in your stool, contact your doctor. Strong attack is a warning to seek a doctor right away. If laboratory analysis of blood and stool do not indicate any infection (which is usually the most common cause of these symptoms), you will need to go to the hospital for further examinations that will help the doctor determine the definitive diagnosis. (If the pain is severe and bleeding is abundant, the tests will be done immediately.) Doctors will examine your colon with a sigmoidoscope and possibly with a colonoscope; during these examinations they will probably perform the intestinal wall biopsy, and maybe even irigography (a test with barium).
Self-help: if you have an ulcerative colitis, you will probably need a medical care for a few weeks. In that period, and after that, you will be able to prevent further seizures by consuming food with large quantities of fiber, as in diverticulum. It would be good to reduce the amount of milk and other lactic products in your diet. Disease can be worsen by some antibiotics that often cause diarrhea as a side effect. If you have had an ulcerative colitis attack earlier, do not forget to mention this to your doctor (if your personal history is unknown) – especially if you are being treated for some infection that would require antibiotic prescription under normal circumstances.
Professional help: the usual treatment is a drug treatment, which lasts 4 to 6 weeks, focused on ulcers. Mostly, corticosteroids are used as tablets, clisters or suppositories.
A strong attack of ulcerative colitis is treated – at least for the first two weeks – at the hospital. Nutrients and corticosteroid drugs are given by infusion or, in concentrated liquid form, on the mouth. In order to prevent further attacks of ulcerative colitis, medicines taken by the patient (in the form of tablets) are prescribed for an indefinite period of time. If you have frequent seizures of ulcerative colitis, your doctor may advise you on the operation, i.e. removal of part of the colon. The operation will prevent future seizures and eliminate the risk of colon cancer development.