What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic disease causing inflammation and sores (ulcers) on the inner lining of the colon (main part of the large intestine). Although any age may be affected, it usually begins between the ages of 16-25 years, and is equally common among women and men. Sometimes there is a family history of the disease, and this indicates an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
The cause of Ulcerative Colitis is not known. Some scientists believe that the inflammation of the colon is a reaction caused by the body’s immune system turning against itself. Instead of protecting its own tissues, it destroys or damages them. The disease usually begins slowly, but the initial acute attack, or a flare-up, may occur without warning. About 10% of those affected by ulcerative colitis recover completely and suffer no re-occurrence. For the remainder, the disease is chronic, with a pattern of intermittent flare-ups followed by remission.
How is Ulcerative Colitis diagnosed?
There is no single test to identify ulcerative colitis. Techniques used include sigmoidoscopy, an examination in which a hollow tube with lighting devices is inserted into the rectum, via the anus. A barium enema (X-ray with radioopaque liquid introduced via the anus) may be carried out, but not usually during a flare-up, since there is a danger of perforating the intestinal wall. A biopsy (removal of a tissue sample for laboratory examination) may be preformed from the colon to rule out Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that may effect any portion of the digestive tract.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
- Bloody diarrhea
- Frequent, loose stools containing blood and pus • Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Malaise (tiredness)