Ulcerative Colitis Overview and Treatment
Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involving the formation of ulcers along the lining of the colon or large intestine. These ulcers cause significant swelling and pain, however due to the generalized symptoms associated with the disease, it is challenging to diagnose.
The causes of ulcerative colitis include age and genes, which both play a part in its potential development. The majority of patients diagnosed with ulcerative colitis are between the ages of 15 to 30 and 50 to 70. However, patients of any age can develop the condition. A genetic predisposition seems to exist as well, therefore patients with close relatives suffering from ulcerative colitis should be aware of this increased risk.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease and as such, symptoms develop over the course of months or even years – there is no acute onset. The primary symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Diarrhea, which can be mild or severe. Severe cases may interfere with normal lifestyle. This constant diarrhea may also trigger weight loss in certain patients
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Rectal pain
- Abdominal pain
Does Ulcerative Colitis Cause Bowel Cancer?
While relatively rare, there is some association with prolonged ulcerative colitis and bowel cancer. Many cancers are triggered by chronic inflammatory response and we believe this to be the case with ulcerative colitis as well.
Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis
With ulcerative colitis being a chronic disease, our goal is to achieve remission. Patients may still experience flare-ups, but long-term control is possible.
For milder cases, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and steroids may be used to bring UC under control. Immune modifiers and suppressants to reduce the body’s immune response may also be employed if more conservative options have failed.
In certain cases, medications may not be effective. At this point surgery may be needed. Surgery may involve the removal of the entire colon, rectum and anus, in which case an ileostomy (external bag to collect waste) may be necessary. This is known as a total proctocolectomy.
Some patients may benefit from a total proctocolectomy with ileal-anal pouch. This is a surgical procedure where the entire colon and rectum are removed, but the anus is spared. The ileum (end of the small intestine) is then connected directly to the anus. A piece of small intestine shaped like a S, J or W is created further up the ileum to serve as a reservoir for waste.
Either surgery noted above is considered curative for ulcerative colitis as the condition only affects the colon and rectum.
To learn more about common treatments for an inflammatory bowel disease and how our surgeons can help, we encourage you to contact our office.