Ulcerative Colitis - Overview

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WHAT IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS?

Ulcerative colitis is part of a group of conditions called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  This condition causes the inside of the large intestines (colon) to become inflamed and develop sores (ulcers).This leads to symptoms including bleeding and diarrhea. The inflammation always affects the rectum and lower part of the colon, but it can also affect the whole colon.

Ulcerative colitis cannot be cured; it is a chronic condition. It will require lifelong management and care. When well-controlled, people with ulcerative colitis can live full lives. In order to keep the disease under control you will have to take the prescribed medication as instructed and attend all scheduled doctor visits for regular monitoring.  

SYMPTOMS

The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is diarrhea, which may contain blood or mucus. Abdominal pain and pain in the rectal area are less common but do occur.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be mild, moderate or severe, and can fluctuate over time. Periods of active symptoms are called "flare-ups“. When symptoms are under control and the there are no active symptoms, the ulcerative colitis is considered to be in remission.

Ulcerative colitis is classified as mild, moderate or severe based on symptoms:

  • Mild symptoms - Mild diarrhea that may or may not be bloody (up to four episodes per day); mild, crampy abdominal pain; diarrhea may alternate with bouts of constipation
  • Moderate disease - Frequent episodes of bloody diarrhea (more than four per day); feeling tired or weak due to anaemia (a low red blood cell count); mild to moderate abdominal pain, usually with a mild fever
  • Severe disease - Very frequent episodes of bloody diarrhea (six or more per day); feeling tired or weak due to anaemia (a low red blood cell count); severe abdominal pain and cramping; a racing heartbeat; fever; weight loss, which can happen quickly.

If you are struggling with symptoms, consult with your doctor.

Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Ordás I, Eckmann L, Talamini M, Baumgart DC, Sandborn WJ. Ulcerative colitis. Lancet. 2012 Nov 3;380(9853):1606-19


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