What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term disease where inflammation develops in the large intestine (the colon and rectum). The most common symptom is diarrhoea mixed with blood. The disease can develop at any age, but more often starts between the ages of 15 and 40.
Typical symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
Mild to severe diarrhoea which may be watery and mixed with blood, mucus or pus
An urgency to get to the toilet
Pain when passing stools
A feeling of wanting to go to the toilet only to find that nothing will pass
If you are suffering from ulcerative colitis, you may also feel generally unwell with tiredness, nausea, fever and even anaemia developing. The condition can also cause significant weight loss.
However, these symptoms are not constant, but only occur when ulcerative colitis ‘flares up’ (relapses). The severity of symptoms and their frequency differs from one person to another.
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is still unknown. However, there is evidence that some people may have a genetic predisposition towards developing the condition, and ethnicity may also be a factor.
Bouts of gastroenteritis or taking certain medicines such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may trigger an episode of ulcerative colitis. Some researchers also believe that the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis may be caused by a weakened immune system.
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms, then make an appointment with your GP. He or she will ask you about your medical history (and possibly your mental health history as managing your stress levels can greatly reduce the severity of your symptoms), and will then carry out a physical examination. Also, as well as a blood test to check for anaemia, a stool specimen may be taken for testing. This is to exclude bacterial infections.
Other diagnostic tests may include:
A colonoscopy – after being given a sedative to help you relax, a special flexible telescope is inserted into your anus in order to give a clear view of your rectum and colon, so that any signs of inflammation, bleeding or ulcers in these areas may be found.
A sigmoidoscopy – a rigid tube with a light is inserted in the same way as described above and for the same investigative purpose
These diagnostic tests will usually be made once your GP refers you to a gastroenterologist.
Effect on your life
Although the initial flare up of ulcerative colitis can be extremely painful and traumatic, relapses thereafter should be less distressing. You may also find that your symptoms are usually intermittent, with few or no symptoms between attacks.
You may become less active in your daily life, simply due to the tiredness and fatigue. You may also experience a loss of appetite.
Many people that suffer from the condition agree that the constant desire to empty their bowels during a relapse has the biggest effect upon their life, impacting upon their behaviour both at home, in the workplace, and socially.
The good news is that, although as yet there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, the condition can be controlled with daily medication (usually mesalazine) which means that you will not necessarily be housebound or have to give up work in order to cope with the condition.
Treatments for ulcerative colitis include:
Medications – such as anti-inflammatories or steroids to help to control symptoms
Leukapheresis – a blood treatment to remove the white cells creating the inflammation
Laxatives – to help induce and ease bowel movements
Dietary advice/nutritional support – it is advisable to eat small meals (and also to ask your GP about food supplements), drink plenty of fluids, and keep a food diary to track which foods exacerbate your symptoms – allowing you to tailor your daily diet accordingly
Where ulcerative colitis is particularly severe, surgery may be required.
How Chemist Online can help
To help encourage bowel movements in sufferers of ulcerative colitis, we have available to buy through this website a range of different laxatives such as DulcoEase Laxative Capsules and Senokot, which both offer relief during an ulcerative colitis relapse.
Advice & Support
NACC National Association for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
4 Beaumont House
AL 1 5HH
Tel: 0845 130 2233
E-mail [email protected]
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