A serious, chronic, inflammatory disease of the colon (large intestine). The inflammation causes small sores or ulcers. It usually affects the rectum (the lower end of the colon), but may affect the entire colon. Rarely, a portion of the small intestine is involved. Ulcerative colitis may occur at any age and in both sexes.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Symptoms may be mild, moderate, or severe.
Pain in the left side of the abdomen. It may improve after bowel movements.
Episodes of bloody diarrhea with mucus, alternating with symptom-free intervals.
Severe cramps and pain around the rectum.
Appetite and weight loss.
Sweating and nausea.
Symptoms may occur outside the abdomen.
Unknown. Genetic, infectious, immunologic, and psychological factors have all been suggested.
RISK INCREASES WITH
Family history of ulcerative colitis.
No specific preventive measures.
Symptoms tend to come and go throughout life. Treatment can help. It is curable with surgery.
Life-threatening blood loss, ulceration through the intestinal wall or peritonitis.
Malnutrition (lack of nutrients).
Inflammation of joints, eyes, and skin.
Colon cancer. Risk is greater with ulcerative colitis.
Life-threatening blood poisoning.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms. Medical tests may include stool and blood studies and X-ray of the colon (barium enema). A sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy may be done. In these procedures, a thin tube with a lighted tip is used to view inside the colon and rectum. At the same time, a small piece of tissue can be removed for biopsy.
Treatment will depend on the severity and extent of the inflammation. Treatment steps may include drug therapy, surgery and, sometimes, diet changes.
Hospital care may be needed if bleeding or dehydration develops. Fluids may be given through a vein (IV).
Surgery to remove the entire colon may be needed. This is done for severe symptoms (such as bleeding), rupture of the colon, cancer risk, failure of other treatments, or side effects of steroidal drugs. The options for surgery and stool elimination will be explained to you.
Counseling may help with emotional aspects of the disease or the surgery. Learn relaxation techniques.
To learn more: Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, 386 Park Ave. South, 17th floor, New York, NY 10016; (800) 932-2423; website: www.ccfa.org.
Antidiarrheal drugs may be recommended diarrhea.
Sulfa drugs, such as sulfasalazine, may be prescribed to help control inflammation.
Cortisone drugs may be prescribed for more severe symptoms. They may be taken by mouth, injected, given through an enema, or as a suppository.
Drugs called immunomodulators may be prescribed.
Antibiotics will be prescribed for infection.
Vitamin and mineral supplements may be prescribed.
Iron replacement may be needed.
Bed rest may be needed during acute attacks. Resume normal activity as soon as symptoms improve.
Eat a healthy diet. Some foods aggravate symptoms in different people. Keep a food diary to learn which foods cause you symptoms so you can avoid them.
Avoid milk products if you have a lactose intolerance.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
After diagnosis and treatment, fever and chills develop, the frequency of bowel movements or bleeding increases, jaundice (yellow eyes and skin with dark urine) develops, vomiting begins, or pain increases.