Ulcerative Colitis is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that is marked by chronic inflammation of the digestive tract. This swelling in the lining of the colon and rectum are often characterized by diarrhea and abdominal pain. In many cases the pain associated with ulcerative colitis is debilitating and if left un-treated life threatening complications may emerge.
The symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis vary from patient to patient depending largely upon the severity of the disease. Ulcerative Colitis develops in the lowest part of the low intestine (the rectum) in all patients that suffer from the condition. In some patients, however, the disease expands and becomes present throughout the entire colon. The severity of the disease is determined by the level of inflammation and amount of the colon that is affected. For this reason, the disease is often classified by physicians based on its location in your digestive tract. Different classifications of the disease include:
- Ulcerative Proctitis: This type of the condition confines inflammation to the rectum. In many cases, the only symptoms prompted by this level of Ulcerative Colitis include rectal bleeding, rectal pain and a chronic feeling of urgency to empty the bowels, a symptom referred to as Tenesmus. This is the least severe form of Ulcerative Colitis.
- Proctosigmoiditis: In this form of Ulcerative Colitis the rectum and lower colon are both affected. Common symptoms of this form of the disease include bloody diarrhea, Tenesmus and abdominal cramps.
- Left-sided Colitis: Left-sided Colitis is classified by inflammation that occurs at the rectum and extends along the left side through the lower end of the colon. Symptoms of left-sided colitis include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping, unexpected weight loss and an overall feeling of pain on the left side of the abdomen.
- Pancolitis: This form of Ulcerative Colitis affects the entire colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fatigue and significant and unexpected weight loss.
- Fulminant Colitis: Fulminant Colitis is the most severe classification of the disease and in certain situations could be life threatening. Fulminant Colitis affects the entire colon and causes severe symptoms of pain, diarrhea and dehydration. Patients that experience this form of Colitis are at risk for severe complications such as colon rupture and toxic megacolon.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain and diarrhea or have blood in your stool accompanied with a lingering unexplained fever, you should contact your physician immediately as these may be signs of Ulcerative Colitis. There are several exams that your physician may recommend in order to successfully diagnose Ulcerative Colitis, such as:
- Blood tests
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
- Barium enema
- CT scan
Treatment options for Ulcerative Colitis vary depending on the severity and classification of the disease. Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and immune system suppressors are often recommended. For certain patients, anti-biotics and iron supplements are also suggested. In severe cases of Ulcerative Colitis surgical interference may be recommended.
For many patients that suffer from Ulcerative Colitis lifestyle remedies are useful in relieving the daily occurrence of symptoms. Often, patients that suffer from Ulcerative Colitis benefit from small dietary changes, such as limiting dairy, staying fully hydrated and avoiding raw vegetables by steaming or boiling them for easier digestion. Stress management techniques also help to alleviate a flare-up of symptoms and discomfort.