What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition (much like Crohn’s disease), which causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon. Unlike Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis is confined to the colon and does not extend into other areas of the GI tract. The inflammation and ulcers occur due to an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. With ulcerative colitis, the immune system mistakes food, bacteria, and other materials in the intestine for foreign substances. When this occurs, the body sends white blood cells into the lining of the colon, where they produce chronic inflammation and ulcerations.
According to the National Institute of Digestive Diseases, ulcerative colitis can occur in people of any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, or older than 60 years of age. It is more likely to develop if you have a family member with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Although ulcerative colitis cannot be cured, it can be controlled with appropriate treatment.
What are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis can occur in different parts of the colon, which causes a variety of symptoms. Generally the farther the inflammation spreads into the colon the more serious the symptoms become. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Urgency to have a bowel movement
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
How is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can often mimic those of many other medical conditions. Your Dallas gastroenterologist will first perform a detailed history and physical exam. Further tests or procedures to make the correct diagnosis may include
- Blood tests
- Stool studies
- X-ray studies like CT scans or MRIs
What Is The Treatment For Ulcerative Colitis?
The goal of treatment is to control the disease through the use of medications to reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, and achieve complete healing of the inflammation of the lining of the intestine to avoid complications like cancer.
Some of the medications used for the treatment of Ulcerative Colitis include:
- Mesalamines / Anti-Inflammatories (Pentasa, Asacol, Apriso, Lialda)
- Immunomodulator therapy (Azathioprine, 6-MP, methotrexate)
- Anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy (Remicade, Humira, Cimzia, Simponi)
- Integrin Receptor Antagonist (Entyvio, Tysabri)
- Pain Relievers
- Iron/Calcium/Vitamin Supplements
At times when drug therapy no longer controls symptoms, surgery may be necessary. Surgery can be a long term curative option.