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What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is one of the diseases under the umbrella term “Inflammatory Bowel Disease” (IBD). Another chronic digestive disorder, Crohn’s disease, is a form of IBD. Approximately 1,000,000 Americans suffer from IBD. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the large intestine. The lining of the intestinal wall becomes red, swollen and bleeds. The inflammation prevents water from being absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in diarrhea.

Ulcerative colitis can begin at any age, but most commonly occurs in people 15-40 years of age. Men and women have an equal chance of getting the disease.

What causes ulcerative colitis?

The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Researchers agree that genetics play a large role in the disease. Ulcerative colitis does run in families. Research is being done to discover the specific gene/group of genes that predispose people to IBD.

Symptoms

• Persistent diarrhea
• Abdominal pain
• Rectal bleeding
• Fever
• Joint pain
• Weight loss
• Skin or eye irritations
• Liver problems
• Delayed growth and sexual maturation in children
• Bleeding may lead to anemia

Remission and Flare-ups

Ulcerative colitis patients experience short periods of remission, where the disease is inactive. Some patients can experience several months to years of remission.

Periods of illness, also called relapses or flare-ups, cannot be predicted and the cause of a flare-up is unknown.

Use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin) is the most common cause of flare ups. NSAIDs aggravate the immune system and prevent the intestine from protecting itself from unwanted bacteria.

Stress does not cause ulcerative colitis, but MAY trigger flare-ups in some patients. If stress is known to cause flare-ups in a colitis patient, therapy and support from family friends or support groups should be part of the treatment regimen.

Diet does not cause ulcerative colitis or cause flare-ups. Many ulcerative colitis patients become frustrated because their doctors cannot tell them a specific diet to follow. This is because diet is individual to the patient. Foods that may trigger symptoms in one patient may not in another patient.

Controlling Ulcerative Colitis

Medications such as sulfasalazine and corticosteroids are standard drugs used to treat ulcerative colitis. When those drugs are unsuccessful, other drugs may be used, or surgery may become necessary. Surgically removing the colon cures ulcerative colitis.

Some patients use therapies alternative to western medicine to treat their ulcerative colitis. Herbs and acupuncture are two of the most common forms of alternative therapy that ulcerative colitis patients try.

If you’re worried you might have ulcerative colitis, make an appointment with Dr. Vikram Tarugu’s office today.