Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes chronic swelling and ulcers in the inner lining of the colon. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain or cramping, rectal bleeding, urgency but inability to defecate, weight loss, fatigue, fever, nausea, loss of appetite, and anemia. According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, patients can experience mild to severe symptoms that can settle into periods of remission lasting anywhere from a few weeks to years.
If you suspect you may have this condition, or are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to contact a board-certified gastroenterologist for a proper diagnosis.
What causes ulcerative colitis?
Although the exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, studies show it may be triggered by a body’s response to another disease or there may be a genetic link. Because inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself, a virus or bacterial infection may overstimulate the immune system, attacking the inner lining of the colon. Research also shows that people are more likely to suffer from ulcerative colitis if they have a family member with IBD, though there is no identified gene for this condition.
How can I manage it?
Today, there is no proven way to prevent or permanently resolve ulcerative colitis. However, there are ways to help manage it. Medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or immunosuppressant drugs, can helpful. Lifestyle changes, including smaller meals, daily exercise, probiotics, and drinking more water, can also help relieve symptoms. Since stress and diet can aggravate ulcerative colitis, many patients can benefit from stress reduction exercises, such as meditation or yoga, or by decreasing their intake of dairy, wheat, caffeine, high-fat foods, spicy foods, and alcohol.
When ulcerative colitis becomes cancerous or pre-cancerous, has life-threatening complications, or does not improve despite medication, surgery may be required. Only a board-certified gastroenterologist can help determine if this is necessary.
Call Digestive Disease Associates in Hinsdale at (630) 325-4255 to discuss your questions about ulcerative colitis with one of our physicians, Dr. Carl Calandra or Dr. Suman Kaur. Visit www.ddahinsdale.com to learn more.
Note: This information shouldn’t take the place of a physician’s care. Please see your physician or one of the Digestive Disease Associate physicians with any questions or concerns.