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Ulcerative Colitis – Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Saturday, June 30th 2012. | Digestive System

Ulcerative Colitis definition

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine (colon). The inflammation usually begins in the rectum, but can extend to the entire colon. It is characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the innermost lining of the colon, called the mucosa, which can cause bleeding.

The evolution is driven by the characteristic sign of the disease. These inflammatory attacks can last for months and repeat several times a year. Between these outbreaks, occur periods of calm. The differential diagnosis between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease is not always easy. Unlike Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis always confined to the large intestine and never extends to other segments of the gastrointestinal tract.

The disease preferentially affects young adults between 20 and 40. Although patients may be asymptomatic for long periods outside the acute attacks, ulcerative colitis is a serious condition.

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

The Causes of ulcerative colitis are still not known. Genetic factors, infectious and mental have been implicated. In many cases, several different factors seem to be involved. An abnormality of the immune system and environmental factors could also play a role.

Disorders (symptoms)

Intestinal problems of unknown origin, which persist for some time, require a medical consultation.

  • The onset is often insignificant.
  • Abdominal pain imprecise.
  • One feature of the disease is the occurrence of symptoms in spurts. The occurrence of frequent diarrhea 20x/jour up with blood in the stool suggests an inflammatory flare. Other symptoms may be associated, such as fever, impaired general condition, pallor and fatigue.
  • Other organs may also be affected. Inflammation of the joints (arthritis), inflammation of the skin and eyes are common.

Ulcerative Colitis Examinations (diagnosis)

  • History taking into account the patient’s symptoms.
  • For bacteria and parasites in stool
  • Colonoscopy with microscopic examination of fragments taken from mucosa.
  • Radiography of the colon with use of contrast.
  • Demonstration of inflammatory markers in the blood.

Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options

The intensity of treatment depends on the severity of inflammatory attacks (bloody diarrhea, fever, serious impairment of general condition). In most cases, drug therapy in the long term should be initiated.

Ulcerative Colitis General Measures

  • During severe diarrhea occur in significant losses of liquid must be compensated for these losses by abundant drinks.
  • In the acute stage: strict bed rest with administration of a food low in sugar and fiber.
  • Dietary recommendations of an experienced specialist to change the diet. Frequent bleeding can cause iron deficiency and anemia.
  • Smoking cessation

The majority of inflammatory attacks can be treated at home. Hospitalization is indicated in cases of bloody diarrhea and dehydration. In this case, artificial feeding and medication administration by infusion is needed.

Ulcerative Colitis Drugs

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (eg aminosalicylates in capsule or enema, releasing the active substance in the large intestine. These drugs can prolong the intervals between flare-ups.
  • In case of severe outbreaks, administration of cortisone tablets, suppositories or enemas.
  • In case of severe and rapid evolution, possible administration of immunosuppressants or requiring controls hematological prescription of immunomodulators.
  • Probiotics: concomitant use of non-pathogenic bacteria (E. coli Nissle Eschericchia) seems to have a favorable influence on the flora of the gastrointestinal tract and thereby improve symptoms.
  • Preparations of iron, calcium, vitamin D (to prevent bone damage following treatment with cortisone).

Ulcerative Colitis Surgery

Unlike other chronic inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis can be cured by removal of the colon. This surgery is called colectomy. Nevertheless it is to weigh up the pros and cons of such an intervention before making a final decision. New surgical techniques that can preserve the anal sphincter and thus avoid a stoma.

Ulcerative Colitis Psychotherapeutic

Quality of life for patients is severely hampered by illness. In many cases, a psychotherapeutic can help the patient learn to live with his illness. In Switzerland, several patient groups that bring patients to the help and support, were formed.

Possible Complications

Minor Complications

As long as the disease remains confined to the rectum, the prognosis is good and life expectancy of patients is normal. Continuous and appropriate treatment allows most patients to live an almost normal life.

In the inflamed large intestine, abscesses and fistulas may form, requiring surgery.

Serious complications

Colon perforation due to a weakening of the intestinal wall and hyperextension as a result of gas accumulation in the intestinal lumen.
Megacolon (hyperextension of the colon) with peritonitis, perforation and bleeding of the peritoneum.

After years of development, chronic inflammation of the large intestine may be involved in cancer development. For this reason, it is essential to conduct regular checks and colonoscopy with removal of tissue fragments.

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