Ulcerative colitis is caused due to the inflammation of the large intestine. The end of the colon is connected to the rectum and patients suffering from Ulcerative colitis have ulcers on the inner lining of the colon. The problem is most common in United States, Northern Europe and England. The disease is caused due to abnormal immune system of the body.
Hereditary: There is no known cause for the disease. The immune system of the body attacks the intestine and causes inflammation. The disease starts from the rectum and spreads to other body parts. The immune system containing the proteins and the immune cells defends the body against harmful bacteria, parasites, virus and fungi, but in ulcerative colitis, the immune system acts against the body. It is mostly a genetic disorder, which can be found in first degree relatives of the patient.
1. Persistent diarrhoea
2. Blood in faeces
3. Abdominal pain on the left side
4. Recurring fever and flare ups, fatigue and night sweats
5. Cramps and immediate movement of bowel
6. Constant urge for bowel movement
7. Watery stool containing blood and pus
8. Redness in eyes
9. Joint pains, pains in knee, ankles, shoulders
10. Skin lesions (erythma nodosum) red in color, found on the calves and shins
11. Mouth ulcers (aphthous ulcers)
There are different types of ulcerative colitis:
1. Ulcerative proctitis is a condition, in which, inflammation is found in the rectum and patient may suffer from rectal bleeding and pain to be forced to go immediately for the bowel movement.
2. Proctosigmoiditis is a condition, in which, the rectum and colon are inflamed. The symptoms include bloody diarrhoea, cramps and urgency.
3. If the infection starts from the rectum and spreads to the colon, it is called left-sided colitis and symptoms of left-sided colitis are cramps, diarrhoea, weight loss and left side pain.
4. Pancolitis or universal colitis is the condition, where the complete colon is infected and the symptoms include night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, fever, cramps and abdominal pain.
5. A rare form of colitis is fulminant colitis, where the patient suffers from severe inflammation and develops the risk of rupture of the colon.
Diagnosis and treatment: Sigmoidoscopy, barium test and colonoscopy can be used to diagnose ulcerative colitis.
1. Sigmoidoscopy allows direct view of the gastro-intestinal tract and the sigmoidoscope is inserted through anus to be moved in the colon.
2. Colonoscopy uses electronic imaging and it is also moved into the body through anus. Patients are drowsy during the procedure.
3. Barium tests is done by inserting the barium into the colon, which can be seen through the X-ray and barium shows all the irregularity in the intestinal lining.
4. Laboratory tests can also be done to diagnose the problem such as blood test, stool test, red blood cell count and white blood cell count.
Treatment: Steroids are given to suppress the immune system, but it may have many side effects and it is not suitable for all patients. Many medicines are used to treat the different forms of ulcerative colitis such as sulfasalazine, asacol etc and drugs are taken to suppress the immune system of the body. Fish oil and certain food products are helpful in fighting inflammation.
Surgery is the done in extreme cases and in surgery, the whole colon is removed from the patient's body and the procedure is called colectomy. Surgery is done to prevent perforations in colon.