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Ulcerative Colitis


Ulcerative Colitis is a disease of the bowel that leads to chronic inflammation in the colon and rectum (large intestine). Over time, this inflammation causes ulcers to develop in the colon as well as other uncomfortable symptoms of the digestive tract. People who suffer with Ulcerative Colitis over a long period of time are at a greater risk of developing colon cancer. Due to the nature of the debilitating symptoms, people with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) should consider seeking medical treatment to help them manage their disease.

Causes

It is unclear what the direct cause of UC is but it is speculated that it may be due to a malfunction of the immune system. UC is believed to have a genetic link as well, meaning it may be possible to inherit the condition.  Diet and stress, which were previously thought to be contributing factors, have since been ruled out as a cause. Still, there are diet and lifestyle choices that may make symptoms worse. Seeing a colorectal surgeon to get education on what you can do to diminish symptoms, what foods to avoid, beneficial changes to lifestyle, and treatment options is advisable.

Risk Factors

Doctors can only speculate on what risk factors may lead to UC since there is no known cause. Generally, it is believed that age, race or ethnicity, heredity, and Isotretinoin use (a vitamin A derivative commonly used to treat acne) are risk factors to developing UC. Although UC can occur at any age, it is most often see between the ages of 15-35, and in those of Caucasian or Ashkenazi Jewish Decent.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary based on the severity of the disease as well as how far it has progressed. Typical symptoms are:

  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and/or cramping
  • Rectal pain
  • Blood or mucus in stool
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Treatments

Due to the chronic nature of UC, treatment usually includes long-term medication and often minimally invasive surgery. Patients often see benefits from a combination of treatments including anti-inflammatory medications, immune system suppression in the form of corticosteroids, antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medication, iron supplements, and pain relievers. In severe cases, patients may require a proctocolectomy which is a surgical procedure to remove the entire colon and rectum. An ostomy would then be formed for the elimination of stool. Your colon and rectal surgeon can discuss which treatment options best fit your needs based on your specific case.

Call 623.208.5740 for more information or to schedule an appointment.