Everything to know about ulcerative colitis

Everything to know about ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a bowel disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the intestines. The inflammation usually starts in the rectum and can spread to the entire colon. Ulcerative colitis can sometimes lead to complications that can be life-threatening. Read on to know more about the causes, signs, and treatments for this condition.

Causes
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Researchers believe that it could be the result of an overactive immune response. People with ulcerative colitis have an immune system that mistakes good bacteria in the colon as harmful bacteria resulting in the inflammation of the colon and rectum.

Genetics can also play a role in the development of ulcerative colitis. Researchers have identified a few genes that can make people more likely to develop this bowel disease.

Warning signs
The severity of the symptoms varies among people and usually depends on the amount of inflammation and the location. Look out for the following warning signs:

  • Abdominal pain
    One of the warning signs of ulcerative colitis is rectal or abdominal pain. The pain can range from mild to severe.
  • Diarrhea
    Frequent and sudden urges to have a bowel movement or watery stool are symptoms of ulcerative colitis. People may also notice blood, pus, or mucus in their stools.
  • Fever
    A chronic and low-grade fever is a symptom in most people with ulcerative colitis.
  • Anemia
    Anemia occurs due to frequent bleeding. Anemia can also cause fatigue, problems concentrating, and shortness of breath.

Some additional symptoms that can be caused as a result of inflammation are:

  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Nausea and decreased appetite
  • Skin rashes
  • Mouth sores
  • Eye inflammation

Treatment
Though there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, there are treatments that can calm the inflammation in the colon.

  • Aminosalicylates
    For people with mild to moderate conditions, aminosalicylates are usually prescribed. These medications help fight inflammation and control symptoms.
  • Corticosteroids
    For severe symptoms, corticosteroids such as prednisone or budesonide may be used to reduce inflammation.
  • Immunomodulators
    Immunomodulators help calm an overactive immune system. These medicines can take up to three months to take effect and show results.
  • Biologics
    When other medications are not working, biologic medicines may be used. These medicines reduce inflammation in the intestine by destroying proteins the immune system uses to stimulate inflammation.
  • JAK inhibitors
    These medications work to stop the enzyme in the body that triggers inflammation.
  • Surgery
    When other treatments do not work, surgery may be performed to remove the colon and the rectum. With this removal, the small intestine is used to eliminate waste products from the body. The standard surgical procedure is called a proctocolectomy. There are two kinds of surgery – proctocolectomy with ileal pouch-anal anastomosis and proctocolectomy with end ileostomy.

Nutrition
There is no specific diet for people with ulcerative colitis. However, certain foods can trigger its symptoms. A good way is to keep a food diary to track what you eat and how you feel about your symptoms. Try removing foods causing flare-ups to see if your symptoms improve. But before making any changes to your diet, consult your healthcare provider, who will advise you on how best to meet your nutritional needs.

Here are a few tips which may help reduce flare-ups:

  • Eliminate unhealthy fats
    A diet high in unhealthy fats commonly causes diarrhea, a symptom of ulcerative colitis. It is best to avoid high-fat foods such as butter, cream, fried foods, and margarine.
  • Consume a low-fiber diet
    Bananas, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon are sources of low-fiber and can be beneficial for your condition.
  • Avoid dairy products
    Lactose intolerance is a common issue affecting people with ulcerative colitis. Consuming dairy products can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhea. If you are lactose intolerant, avoid dairy products to reduce symptoms.
  • Avoid sugary foods, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
    Sugary foods, alcohol, and carbonated drinks are problem foods for people with ulcerative colitis and should be avoided.

Living with ulcerative colitis is not easy, and it is best to take the help of a healthcare professional. Medications and diet changes can help control flare-ups and get you back to your normal life.