Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which caused by inflammation of the large intestine (rectum and colon). The inner lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed and ulcers may form on the surface. Although it’s an IBD, it can also affect your eyes, skin and even joints.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Unlike Crohn’s Disease which can occur anywhere in the GI tract from the mouth to the anus, ulcerative colitis is limited to the large intestine – the colon and rectum. Ulcerative colitis affects 700,000 men and women in the U.S. It can occur anytime, but commonly starts between the ages of 15 and 30 years old, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. As a response to the immune system overreacting, the large intestine becomes raw and inflamed (swollen) chronically. This ongoing inflammation leads to ulcerative colitis symptoms.
Ulcerative Colitis Causes
Ulcerative colitis is not contagious or caused by something you ate, but rather several outside factors. A flare-up occurs when the lining of your large intestine swells and thickens, obstructing the normal flow of food through your digestive tract. There are several factors that could trigger an immune response, such as:
- An overactive immune system
- Environmental factors
Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
People who have ulcerative colitis report varying symptoms including:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Frequent diarrhea
- Blood in the stool
- Fatigue and feeling low energy (sometimes from Anemia)
- Unexplained weight loss
- Reduced appetite
- Tenesmus (a sudden and constant feeling that you need to have a bowel movement)
Treatment for ulcerative colitis has two main goals: preventing flare-ups, and keeping them from recurring. Currently, the most common treatment for ulcerative colitis is anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics, diet modifications and nutrition supplements and immune system drugs – surgery may also be necessary for some patients.