Similar to Crohn’s disease in most aspects, ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel condition of the colon and rectum. While Crohn’s disease can spread through any part of the intestine deep within the tissue lining, ulcerative colitis is more of a superficial type of inflammation of the large intestine that can result in bleeding or ulceration. It is also sometimes referred to as colitis ulcerosa, or simply UC.
Since the condition may make those suffering with UC more prone to developing colorectal cancer, regular colonoscopy exams are highly recommended for patients of the disease. Unfortunately, not only do patients with UC have to endure the symptoms of the disease, but they also have to partake in the colonoscopy prep process more than most individuals. This is not a fun step, but it is necessary for proper diagnosis.
Types of Ulcerative Colitis
There are four distinctive types of UC:
- Ulcerative proctitis, which is a mild-to-moderate type of ulcerative colitis that only affects the rectum;
- Ulcerative proctosigmoiditis, which is a mild form that affects the sigmoid colon and the rectum;
- Distal colitis, or the left-sided colitis, that affects a part of the colon located on the left size;
- And colitis, a type of ulcerative colitis that affects the entire colon.
Specialists estimate that the disease affects approximately 2 out of 100000 people (men, women and children) worldwide. It affects men and women equally and studies also show that it is genetically transferable. It generally affects people between 15 and 40 years old, but it can be encountered at any age.
What are the causes of ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is caused by a poorly regulated or inappropriate immune system response. More precisely, it is caused by immune cells that are activated when there is no known invader or threat, causing an inflammation within the tissues. While this is what most scientists speculate, the truth is that the exact cause of UC is unknown at this point in time. It is also speculated that food intolerances and stress can trigger some symptoms; however, these factors are not directly responsible for the disease.
What are the possible complications?
Ulcerative colitis can cause many other complications, including severe bleeding, toxic megacolon (a condition characterized by severe inflammation of the colon) and colon perforation. It’s important to know that not all sufferers of ulcerative colitis will experience these complications. People who are affected by this digestive system condition are also prone to anemia, a severe condition characterized by an inadequate number of red blood cells.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Some of the most common symptoms of UC include:
- Severe abdominal pain (especially in the lower region)
- Chronic diarrhea.
- Frequent bowel movements, especially at night.
- An urgent need to defecate.
- Reduced appetite and, as a result, weight loss.
- Fever, especially when being affected by ulcerative proctitis.
- Delayed puberty and growth problems in children.
People at risk of developing UC
Studies show that some people are more prone than others to ulcerative colitis, especially because of their genetic heritage. White people are statistically more frequently affected by ulcerative colitis than African Americans and Asians. Additionally, a large percentage of those who suffer from UC (up to 20%) are also affected by Crohn’s disease, which further suggests a genetic predisposition toward the development of colon complications.
Risk factors for UC
Specialists suggest that people who live in industrialized countries or urban areas are more prone to the condition. Isotretinoin, or Accutane, is also believed to cause this condition, even though this has not yet been proven.
Is food a risk factor?
Even though most experts believe that it is not caused by food, a number of studies found a link between diet and ulcerative colitis. Some foods might aggravate the condition and specific foods are different for each individual.
How can ulcerative colitis be prevented?
Before reading further, remember that the precise causes of ulcerative colitis are not known at the moment, and, as a result, preventing the disease is not possible. Some specialists, however, recommend the following preventive measures:
- In the event that you are troubled by symptoms, avoid drinks and foods that aggravate them. Examples often vary from person to person, but alcohol, spicy foods, drinks that contain caffeine and certain vegetables like beans, broccoli and cabbage are best to be avoided altogether.
- Milk and other dairy products such as yogurt can cause abdominal pain, flatulence and diarrhea. Even though there are no proven links between them and ulcerative colitis, it’s best to avoid these as well.
- Rather than eating two or three large meals per day, it’s best to eat in small quantities.
- Drink a lot of water throughout the day, but avoid drinks that contain caffeine, alcoholic beverages and carbonated beverages.
If you are having any stomach pains or digestive issues it is always recommend to consult with your doctor.