Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects close to 1 million people in the country. It causes inflammation in the large intestine, leading to the formation of ulcers in the innermost lining of the colon. These ulcers can cause severe pain over time and might lead to other problems, such as kidney stones and liver disease.
UC isn’t limited to just the intestine. It can directly affect other organs and lead to inflammation in them as well. Read on to know more about UC and learn about its genesis, types, and ways to treat.
What causes UC?
Doctors and researchers are unsure as to what really causes UC. Some of them believe that it could be the doing of an abnormal immune response. Sometimes in a bid to attack foreign invaders, the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells.
This could be the case in UC as well, with the immune system of certain individuals attacking the large intestine, causing UC.
There are various risk factors that increase the possibility of UC. Age, for instance, has a major say with most people developing the condition before the age of 30.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t suffer from UC after turning 30. It can be diagnosed anytime, sometimes even after the age of 60. Genetics is another possible risk factor.
What are the types of UC?
UC can be of multiple types. Some of the most common ones include:
- Acute severe ulcerative colitis
The entire colon is affected by this type of UC.
- Left-sided colitis
Inflammation is comparatively wider in this type of UC. It extends from the rectum to a small bend near the spleen. Loss of appetite and weight loss are common symptoms of this condition.
The entire large intestine is infected in this condition. It cannot be cured and leads to a lot of pain and bleeding.
This type of UC doesn’t include much of the colon, affecting only the rectum and sigmoid colon. Constipation, fever, and rectal spasms are a few symptoms of proctosigmoiditis.
- Ulcerative proctitis
This type of UC is characterized by inflammation only in the rectum. It affects less than six inches of the organ and is considered as the mildest form of UC. Symptoms include rectal pain and bleeding.
What are the symptoms of UC?
The severity of UC symptoms varies from one person to another. Some of the most common symptoms include.
- Weight loss
- Bloody stools
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Skin problems
- Eye inflammation
- Joint swelling
How is UC diagnosed?
After learning about your medical history and symptoms, the doctor may advise a few tests to positively diagnose UC. Colonoscopy is a common test that allows the doctor to view the entire colon and check for any inflammation.
Flexible sigmoidoscopy is another diagnostic tool that usually works in the same way as colonoscopy. It is generally recommended if the colon is too inflamed. X-ray, CT scan, and blood tests can also be conducted to positively diagnose UC.
How is UC treated?
Various medications can help treat UC. 5-aminosalicylic acids (5-ASA) like mesalamine (Asacol HD, Delzicol, others) and balsalazide (Colazal) are among the first ones recommended by the doctor.
Medications that reduce inflammation are also valuable against UC. These include Azathioprine (Azasan, Imuran), mercaptopurine (Purinethol, Purixan), and Tofacitinib (Xeljanz). Biologics and corticosteroids are two other classes of medications used to treat UC.
Surgery is another viable treatment option. The entire colon and rectum are removed in this treatment method.