What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a common inflammatory disease of the digestive system and belongs to the colon diseases. It can affect people of any age, but it occurs most often in people before the age of 30.
Although the symptomatology is quite similar to Crohn’s Disease, the two diseases have several differences between them. The main difference is that ulcerative colitis is limited to the large intestine, while Crohn’s disease can cause damage outside the large intestine, such as in the small intestine, the stomach, the esophagus and the oral cavity.
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What are the causes ulcerative colitis?
The exact etiology of the disease remains unknown to this day. However, there are many elements that link its occurrence to both genetic predisposition and external factors. In particular, a well-known theory claims that ulcerative colitis occurs as a reaction of the body to a virus or bacteria.
It is worth noting that ulcerative colitis is not caused by certain foods, smoking or constant stress. Nevertheless, in some cases of patients, these factors can trigger the symptoms of the disease.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Most patients experience periods of exacerbation and remission of the disease. This means that the symptoms go away and come back at certain intervals. The most common symptoms reported are:
• frequent diarrhea (may contain blood, mucus or purulent fluid)
• rectal bleeding and/or pain
• abdominal pain and/or cramps
• weight loss
• loss of appetite
How is the ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
The diagnosis starts with the patient’s medical history and clinical examination. After that, a colonoscopy is performed, during which small samples of the intestine tissue are collected and sent for histological examination (biopsy). In some cases, further tests such as x-rays or other imaging methods may be requested to confirm the diagnosis.
It is worth noting that the medical diagnosis and monitoring of ulcerative colitis is essential, as the disease can cause serious complications, such as:
• toxic megacolon (perforation of the colon)
• extensive bleeding
• colon cancer
What is the treatment for ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis treatment depends on how severe the patient’s symptoms are. The initial treatment of the disease usually includes changes in diet and administration of medication. Food that causes bloating should be excluded from the diet, because it may cause strictures in the intestine. The aim of conservative treatment is to treat the symptoms and limit as much as possible the exacerbation of the disease.
In case the symptoms do not subside through medication or complications of the disease occur, then surgical treatment is the only way. There are different types of operations that can be performed. The doctor suggests the appropriate method, always in discussion with the patient, taking into account all the important parameters.