Ulcerative Colitis: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, is a chronic disease that causes irritation, inflammation and sores (ulcers) on the inner side of large intestine and rectum. These sores can produce pus and bleed, resulting in the severe ulcerative colitis.
Causes of Ulcerative colitis
The number of factors such as abnormal immune response, genetics and environmental factors causes ulcerative colitis. The interaction between a bacterial or viral infection in the colon and the immune response of the body can also trigger it.
- Abnormal Immune Response: Usually, the immune system identifies and destroys virus and bacteria, and fights off infection to protect the body. Sometimes, the virus and bacteria can mistakenly trigger the immune system to attack the lining of the large intestine. This abnormal immune system response causes the inflammation of the intestine resulting in ulcerative colitis.
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- Genetic Factors: Many genes play an essential role in causing it. It is also most common in people having a family history.
- Environmental Factors: Certain things in the environment such as air pollution, certain foods and medications may also trigger ulcerative colitis. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs and oral contraceptives may also increase the chance of getting it.
Symptoms of Ulcerative colitis
The symptoms can be mild to moderate depending upon the severity of inflammation. The period may also vary as some people have long periods of remission. The common symptoms include:
- Cramps and pain in the stomach
- Diarrhea with pus or blood
- Rectal pain and bleeding
- Urgency to have a bowel movement
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Dehydration: Inability of the large intestine to absorb nutrients and fluids due to inflammation and diarrhea.
- Rectal bleeding: It is the bleeding of ulcers from the lining of the intestine. Excessive rectal bleeding may result in anemia.
- Osteoporosis: It results from excessive use of corticosteroid medications used for treatment. The bones become weak and fragile.
- Megacolon: This serious complication results in the inflammation of deep tissues of the colon. The inflammation causes trapping of the gas in the colon, making it swollen and enlarged.
- Colon cancer: People with a long or severe form of ulcerative colitis have more chances of developing colon cancer.
Diagnosis of Ulcerative colitis
- Stool and Blood Tests: Stool test is performed to check for infection in stomach and colon, and blood tests are performed to check for anemia.
- CT scan and X-ray can also be performed to find out the extent of inflammation.
- Sigmoidoscopy: It is done to examine the extent and level of inflammation in the bowel. A thin tube with a camera is inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and lower parts of the colon. This technique is also used to take a tissue sample of the bowel for further testing in the laboratory.
- Colonoscopy: Entire colon is examined with the help of a thin tube with a camera. A tissue sample of the colon can also be taken with the help of this procedure.
It can be treated with both medications and surgery. The most treatments include:
- Medications: Medicines such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and immunomodulators are used to reduce inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis. Biologics including adalimumab, infliximab, and golimumab are also used in people who do not respond to other treatments as they decrease inflammation by targeting tumor necrosis factor.
- Proctocolectomy: Surgical procedure is performed to remove the entire colon or rectum of the patient with severe ulcerative colitis.
- Ileostomy:The surgeon creates a hole in the abdomen for the diversion of the small intestine. Bags called “reservoirs” are placed on these holes for the collection of waste materials.