Ulcerative colitis is a common chronic long-term disease that causes inflammation of the colon. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that has some similarity to Crohn's disease, in that both conditions are characterised by inflammation, which is not caused by infection.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are unpleasant and usually occur when the patient is having a flare up, however they can usually be treated through a number of different ways including medication and a change of diet. Though if the symptoms are severe enough for medication to be ineffective, surgery may be required to remove the affected portion of the colon. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis usually include rectal bleeding and diarrhea, however there is a wide range of symptoms among patients with this disease.
As diarrhea is a common symptom, patients may also feel an urgency to have a bowel movement and can have diarrhea up to 10 to 20 times a day. This urge can be so desperate that it may wake a patient up at night. Rectal bleeding is caused by the ulcers located in bowel, which are disturbed by feces when it passes through the colon. When the ulcers are disturbed, they expel blood therefore causing the bloody diarrhea and mucus; this may also cause the patient to have rectal pain.
Due to constant diarrhea, other symptoms may appear including growth failure, dehydration, anemia and joint pain. Growth failure and dehydration occurs when the patient has a lack of nutrients and fluids in their body; this is usually caused by the persistent diarrhea. Anemia only occurs when there is blood within the feces that is being expelled, thus leading to a low iron count. This can be treated through taking iron tablets and eating red meat.
It's also important to note that the patient's stomach may feel tender and be sore when touched; this is due to the ulcers. A doctor will usually test to see if the stomach is tender during a checkup as a way to assess the severity of the sores. Although ulcerative colitis is incurable, doctors are able to control and keep these symptoms away through the use of steroids and anti-inflammatory medication. Steroids are effective for inducing remission, however are tapered down after the disease is in remission.
Also, it's extremely important to know when to see your doctor. If you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including,
• Abdominal pain
• Blood in your stool
• Ongoing bouts of diarrhea that don't respond to over-the-counter (OTC) medications
• An unexplained fever lasting more than a day or two
Then it is imperative that you see your doctor as soon as possible.
For more information on ulcerative colitis including causes, diet, pregnancy, risk factors and treatment, please visit Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms and more.