Ulcerative Colitis

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the large bowel (colon). The inflammation in turn will cause ulcers or sores to form in the mucosa leading to the most common symptoms of UC, diarrhea with blood or mucus. Ulcerative colitis can occur in people of any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, and less frequently between 50 and 70 years of age. It affects men and women equally and appears to run in families. In addition, patients who have had extensive ulcerative colitis for many years are at an increased risk to develop large bowel cancer. The cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis?

  • Diarrhea, usually with bleeding or mucus
  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia

What Is The Treatment For Ulcerative Colitis?

Drug therapy is the first line treatment for UC. The primary goal of drug therapy is to reduce the inflammation in the intestine and the accompanying symptoms. There are three main classes of drugs that your doctor may use depending on the severity of your symptoms.

These include:

  • Aminosalicylates (aspirin-like medications)
  • Steroids
  • Immunosuppressant drugs

While drug therapy may improve the quality of life for some patients with UC, it is important to realize that these medications will not cure UC. Surgery is the only way to cure the disease.

The surgical procedure to cure UC is called a proctocolectomy, and involves removing the entire colon and rectum. The main job of the rectum is to store stool before bowel movements. Since the rectum is removed with this operation, a pouch is constructed out of the small bowel to collect waste. The pouch is connected to the anus and allows the patient to pass bowel movements normally through the anus. A temporary abdominal opening (ileostomy) is usually required, to allow the pouch to heal before it is used. The opening is typically closed up in a second, smaller operation a few months later, so that patients do not need a permanent ileostomy (bag).

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