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What are the Symptoms?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the rectum, colon, and potentially the entire large intestine. UC is a condition where the inner lining of the colon becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes the colon to empty frequently and produce diarrhea. Furthermore, open sores form when patches of the inflamed lining die and
detach from the intestinal wall, producing pus, mucus as well as bleeding, which may be significant in volume. These
symptoms typically occur in flares but many patients
experience symptoms on a daily basis, rendering the disease particularly debilitating.
There are three different types of UC. The first is proctitis, which affects the rectum and lower part of the colon. The second is left-sided ulcerative colitis, which is confined to the left side of the colon. The third and final type is pancolitis, which afflicts the entirety of the large intestine and is associated with increased risk of cancer, requiring patients to undergo annual cancer screenings.
Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
• Abdominal pain and cramping
• Diarrhea (can be bloody)
• Loss of appetite
• Rectal bleeding, which can lead to anemia
Other, less common symptoms also include:
• Joint pain
• Kidney stones
• Rashes/skin lesions
• Liver disorders
• Inflammation of the eyes
Symptoms of UC can be similar to other inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s Disease. Your physician will run tests to determine if your symptoms are due to UC.
What causes Ulcerative Colitis?
The Facts: Currently there is no proven cause for ulcerative colitis (UC), but there are many theories. A leading theory is that a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental factors results in disease. It has been proposed that a virus or bacteria invades the colon, triggering the immune system to bring about abnormal inflammation, causing destruction of the cells lining the colon. There is no single “cure” for UC and some patients must resort to radical surgical intervention, where portions of their colon are removed. Approximately 25 – 40% of UC patients will ultimately have surgery to control the massive bleeding, severe illness, colonic rupture, and cancer risk associated with the disease.
The Myths: Some believe that an unhappy childhood or inability to cope with stress, sadness, or trauma brings about UC. Others suggest that poor diets consisting of over-processed, genetically engineered, or pesticide-exposed foods cause the disease. While optimizing ones diet and minimizing stress may help manage the symptoms of UC, there is little evidence to support that diet or stress factors cause UC.
Who Gets Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) affects both men and women equally. Generally, most patients are diagnosed between ages 15-30, although children and older adults can also develop the disease.
There are certain factors that increase the likelihood of developing UC:
• Genetics – a family history of UC
• People of Jewish descent, especially Ashkenazi Jews
A common misconception is that people with anxiety or food intolerances develop UC. While neither condition has been shown to bring on UC, both do affect the progression of UC once the disease has been established.
How do I find out if I have Ulcerative Colitis?
Doctors will run a myriad of tests to determine if you have ulcerative colitis (UC) or another inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), like Crohn’s Disease, which has similar symptoms. Generally, blood tests determine if a patient has anemia, an elevated white blood cell count, or an increase in inflammatory markers. A stool culture may be taken to identify bacterial abnormalities or the presence of blood. An EGD (esophagiogastroduodenos-
copy), a procedure where a thin and flexible tube with a camera is conducted down the throat to examine the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum, can also be
performed to visualize abnormal tissue in the GI tract. Finally, a colonoscopy is used to examine the large intestine via the rectum to look for sores or other signs of inflammation in the colon. All of these tests help to diagnose UC and distinguish it from other IBDs, intestinal bacterial infections, or food allergies.
I have UC
Although there is no cure for UC, there are treatments available to help control the disease and improve the quality of life for those who are affected. It is important for patients with UC to explore and understand all of their options, as successful management of symptoms often requires specialized therapy and nutraceuticals, like SpongiCol®, catering to each patient’s unique situation and adapting treatment as the disease progresses.
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