Digestive + Colon
If you’ve been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis you should know you’re not alone. It affects about 500,000 people in the U.S.69 In young children, there are additional factors to consider with colitis because it can cause malnutrition and prevent proper development.
Understanding ulcerative colitis
While its cause is complex, we know that it involves your genes and immune system and may have some impact from lifestyle and environment. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation in the innermost lining (mucosa) of the colon, rectum, or both. Depending where the inflammation is located, the syndrome has different names – it may be called distal colitis, ulcerative proctitis, or pancolitis. Tiny sores form on the lining, which can bleed or lead to infection. This in turn causes other health problems, including abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea. Infection can result, causing fever and fatigue.
The disease appears to be connected to the presence of foreign substances called antigens that trigger the body’s immune system, which results in the inflammation. This eventually damages the tissue of the colon itself.
The symptoms of colitis can look a lot like the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, making it difficult to diagnose. What’s more, colitis may “flare up,” then head into remission for extended periods, only to flare up again years later and is also a risk factor for colon cancer.
Treatments for ulcerative colitis
A variety of medicines can be used to relieve the symptoms of colitis, while others can be helpful to keep it under control or in remission. In some cases, if you cannot control symptoms with medication or if you are diagnosed with colon cancer, surgery may be needed to remove a damaged section of the bowel (intestine), or repair a bowel rupture.
Options for surgery
If your doctor is recommending colon surgery, try to learn as much as you can about the procedure. With years of research and advances in technology, there are now different options for how the procedures are performed. Along with the traditional “open” procedure (which requires a large incision), there is a minimally invasive approach (with small incisions) that is equally effective. This second method typically results in a shorter hospital stay26, 28 and faster recovery with less use of pain relieving prescription medicine28 and smaller scars.