It is a question asked frequently by those who have experienced some bowel problem and thankfully for the majority, they will not have ulcerative colitis. For the unfortunate few, and the numbers are growing every year, to be diagnosed with the disease will change their life though to what degree can only be determined by the passage of time.
The disease causes ulceration of the large bowel. This may only be located on a few inches at the end of the bowel, often referred to as proctitis, or the ulceration may be more extensive within the left hand side (descending) of the colon. An investigatory teat known as a colonoscopy will be undertaken to determine the extent of the colon's ulceration and perhaps give an indication as to how severe the attack will be.
The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is frequent, watery diarrhoea that can have blood and/or mucus in it. The more severe cases can witness very bloody stools. There will be associated abdominal pain when passing stools. Depending on the ferocity of the relapse, the number of times of having to go to the toilet can vary widely but can easily get into double figures within a twenty four hour period during cases of a serious relapse.
But there are also other symptoms to face other than the problem of regular trips to the toilet. As can be imagined, tiredness will be a major factor when enduring a relapse and this can be extenuated by a loss of appetite and a feeling of nausea. These factors taken together can create the problem of weight loss and an insufficient intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Medication that is prescribed such as steroids can produce side effects such as increased hormonal activity and if taken for a long period have been know to cause problems of inflammation of the joints.
The condition, though once diagnosed is permanent, can fluctuate in the appearance of the symptoms. An unfortunate few can have almost perpetual symptoms though the vast majority of sufferers will have periods of relapses and remission. The periods of relapses can be a few days to several months whilst the remissions can last for weeks even years before the next relapse. Whilst experiencing periods of remission, it is common to have no symptoms at all and thus it is possible to achieve life full of normal routines.
If any abdominal pain or blood is found in the stool, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible where they will conduct an examination and test. It can often be that the symptoms the patient is experiencing is in fact inflammatory bowel syndrome which is a mild colitis like condition that can be easily treated and ultimatley kept under control. However, if colitis is diagnosed, then the patient will have to brace themselves and take, what for them will probably be a huge step into the unknown.