Your Top 3 Questions About Ulcerative Colitis Answered Here
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Maybe you know somebody who has it or maybe you’re struggling with it yourself. Either way, ulcerative colitis can be a life-threatening illness everyone should be aware of.
In fact, the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that more than 750,000 people in North America alone are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.
Knowing as much as you can about this disease is crucial to treating it quickly. However, many patients are still withholding their questions when visiting the gastroenterologist. When you have a diagnosis like this one, the most important thing is to work with your specialist as a team.
In this post, I’ll answer 3 of the most important questions I believe everyone should ask about this illness, with experts’ help. Let’s get started!
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. As the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) says, this illness causes chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which leads to irritation, sores (ulcers) and swelling.
What makes the illness difficult to spot is that it begins with mild symptoms that come and go. Although the signs worsen in time, it’s still confusing to acknowledge that one is indeed suffering from this condition.
What are the types of ulcerative colitis?
Aside from being difficult to detect, the illness can also occur in different areas of the GI tract. Mayo Clinic states that there are 5 types of ulcerative colitis:
- Ulcerative proctitis: In this case, the only part with inflammation is the rectum (aka the chamber at the end of the colon which ends with the anus). Rectal bleeding may be the only symptom, so if it persists make sure to contact a specialist!
- Proctosigmoiditis: This inflammation starts from the rectum and extends to the lower end of the colon. You may experience bloody diarrhea, cramps and abdominal pain or constipation.
- Left-sided colitis: With this type, the inflammation starts from the rectum and goes up to the sigmoid and descending colon (the left part of your colon). Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain on the left side and sudden weight loss.
- Pancolitis: Here, the entire colon is affected and might cause severe bloody diarrhea, fatigue, significant weight loss and abdominal pain.
- Acute severe ulcerative colitis: This is the most aggressive (and the rarest!) type of colitis. It can lead to severe pain, extreme diarrhea, bleeding, fever and trouble eating.
What are the best treatments?
Unfortunately, right now there’s no cure for ulcerative colitis. However, the NIDDK explains that there are many treatments involving medication that help to reduce the unpleasant symptoms. The most commonly used drugs are those to modify the immunity to cut down on inflammation or those targeting substances that amplify the inflammation process.
However, note that any severe case of ulcerative colitis requires surgery.
Dr. Megha Kothari, M.D. and gastroenterologist at New York-Presbyterian Medical Group Brooklyn, says that medication required for this illness may have side effects. “The side effect type varies depending on the medication used and from person to person. It is important to review and discuss the risks and benefits with your provider and make an informed decision before proceeding. My advice to patients: Don’t be afraid to speak up and partake in this shared decision making.”
Are you suffering from ulcerative colitis? What are you doing to ease your symptoms? Share your answers in the comments and let’s help each other out!