Causes of ulcerative colitis
causes of ulcerative colitis are currently unknown.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis may be the result of
problems with the immune system, though it is not known
whether or not these immune system problems actually
cause the disease.
are two periods in life when ulcerative colitis is more
likely to develop. The first of these is between fifteen
and thirty years of age, the second is between fifty and
seventy years. There is some evidence of a genetic
component in the disease as some populations or
ethnicities are at greater risk of developing it than
What to expect
affect sufferers differently. Fifty percent of sufferers
experience a milder form of the disease, with the
remaining fifty percent suffering more aggressive
symptoms. These include:
and abdominal pains.
Inflammation of the skin, eyes and joints.
Stools (poo) with pus, mucus and blood.
(the feeling of constantly needing to pass
stools, often with pain).
children: Inhibited growth and development.
Urgency and incontinence.
the disease begins at the rectum, the area of lower
bowel near to the anus, and can spread, involving
progressively more of the colon. In some patients the
disease is limited to the rectum whilst in others it can
develop to involve the whole left hand side of the large
bowel, known as left-sided disease. In some sufferers
the disease can cover the whole of the colon (large
bowel) when it is called pan-colitis (or extensive
many years of inflammation, the colon is at higher risk
of changes that can lead to colon cancer. Patients
therefore undergo examination of the colon to check on
the disease and to look for any changes that might
indicate cancer risk.
Testing for ulcerative colitis
Colonoscopy with biopsy is used to diagnose ulcerative
colitis, and subsequently to test sufferers for risk of
colon cancer. During a colonoscopy a small tube with a
camera at the doctors’ end is inserted in to the anus so
that a doctor can examine the colon visually and take
photographs or video of the colon.
Treatment of ulcerative colitis can be both reactive, to
treat flare-ups and bring patients in to remission, and
proactive, to maintain remission. There are steps that
sufferers can take to assist medical treatments.
of the disease can be triggered or made worse by outside
factors such as diet or stress, though they don’t cause
of the disease itself.
foods can provoke flare ups and this varies from
sufferer to sufferer. Patients tend to avoid these after
some trial and error.
sufferers find the disruptive symptoms of ulcerative
colitis distressing and embarrassing. Many hospitals
have specialist nurses to advise sufferers. There are
also charities to assist and support ulcerative colitis
UK: Crohn’s and Colitis
EU: European Federation of Crohn's and Ulcerative
Colitis Associations (EFCCA)
USA: the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA)
medicines are used to treat and reduce the severity of
flare-ups. Others are used to try to reduce the number
of attacks suffered by a patient. These include:
acid (also known as mesalazine or mesalamine)
administered either as oral tablets or suppositories
or liquid enema inserted directly into the back
Corticosteroids like prednisolone administered as
tablets or as an enema.
Immunomodulators such as azathioprine and
such as infliximab as a treatment for patients whose
disease is not controlled by other medicines.
is currently the only cure for ulcerative colitis. Many
patients undergo a ‘colectomy’, which means surgical
removal of part orall of the colon. Colectomised
patients may receive a stoma, where the end of the
intestine is brought to the wall of the belly or abdomen
where the contents of the intestine are collected in a
disposable plastic bag. This operation is called a colostomy or ileostomy depending on what part of the bowel is
connected to the wall of the belly. Alternatively an
artificial rectum is created, called a pouch, where a
loop of small bowel (intestine) is used to make an
artificial internal bag to hold the contents of the
intestine which is then connected to the anus.
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