What is Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. This is a chronic, autoimmune condition that can affect anyone at any age. This disease is a bit different than Crohn’s disease in a few ways and similar in some. We will go over those differences and some of the similarities in this blog post. For those of you who are newly diagnosed or have a loved one who is diagnosed and you just want to learn more this post will hopefully be for you!
Being informed and learning as much as we can will help in the long run to understand the disease process and the treatment options. I only hope to enlighten slightly to ease the burden of trying to understand what is going on. When there is a new diagnosis like there, there is so much confusion and technical terms. There is so much detail that I could go into but I will keep it to the basics and hopefully be helpful to those of you reading this looking for some basic knowledge and support.
What is it?
So, Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that is similar to Crohn’s disease. The autoimmune nature of this disease causes a normal immune system to unregulated and start attacking self. This disease affects and remains confined to the large bowel causing inflammation and ulcerations (open sores). These ulcerations can bleed and expel mucus and/or pus which causes the colon to spasm and need to empty often. This causes a lot of discomfort for the sufferer of this disease and can greatly decrease the quality of life for them.
Ulcerative Colitis is confined to the colon or large bowel. This is different from Crohn’s disease in that Crohn’s can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus. See my blog about Crohn’s disease here. It is also different in that Crohn’s disease causes very deep rooted inflammation with deep sores that can often lead to fistulas or abscesses. Ulcerative colitis is more superficial with open sores and only the top layer, or the lining on the intestine, will be inflamed. Neither of these diseases should be confused with Irritable bowel syndrome. IBS is common but not nearly as damaging as either of the inflammatory bowel diseases.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
There are many signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis and can affect the intestines as well as anywhere else in the body. The nutrient deficiencies that it can cause can affect the skin and hair and other bodily functions as well. The most common symptoms are
~diarrhea accompanied by blood and mucus
~urgent need to move bowels
~abdominal pain with cramping
~loss of appetite
These symptoms are generally chronic with times when no symptoms are present and times when they are unbearable. The timing is unpredictable and can be brought on by any number of external factors.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
There are several treatments for this inflammatory bowel disease.There are medicines that will help reduce inflammation and/or suppress the immune system. There are a few different categories of drugs that these patients can chose from. Sometimes antibiotics are used to help reduce bacteria that can cause inflammation or if the patient has an abscess or infection that needs to be addressed. The Aminosalicylates (5-ASA) drugs are sometimes helpful in relieving the inflammation of the colon lining. These are generally used for a more mild disease case. There is also steroids that can be used to suppress the inflammation and give a quicker fix while waiting for other medications to kick in. Steroids will come with side effects that can be very serious so they are usually limited in use and need to be tapered slowly off of. Then there are Immunomodulator drugs. These drug will try to modulate the immune system therefore suppressing the inflammatory response in the body. There is also biologic therapies for people with inflammatory bowel disease. These drugs are made of proteins that will bind with the specific antigens in the body that cause inflammation and shut them down. These are the newest medications available and according to clinical studies seem to have a bit of success inducing and maintaining remission.
There are also surgical options for when the disease becomes uncontrollable with medications. These surgical options often involve removing part or all of the colon. There are a lot of diet and nutrition modifications that people can use to help reduce their symptoms even further.
There are also a lot of treatment options on the horizon for inflammatory bowel disease. There are many clinical trials going on that you can become involved with. Please see my post here on the clinical trial that i was a part of! It is exciting to see these new up and coming drugs in action. Here is hoping that they’ll hit the market sooner rather than later!