When you hear about Ulcerative Colitis (UC), you may often confuse it with Irritable bowel disease (IBS) or Crohn’s disease. Although the symptoms are quite similar, the diseases are far different. UC also falls under the category of inflammatory bowel disease. However, it majorly targets your colon or large intestine. The disease results in causing irritation in your colon, which further leads to swelling or inflammation. When your colon gets swollen due to irritation, it results in the formation of sores or ‘ulcers’ on its walls.
You need to remember that there is no specific cure for Ulcerative Colitis. However, there are medical and surgical treatments available for adverse cases when you don’t have any other options left. If you can cure UC with the right form of treatment at the right stage, you may prevent adverse consequences. When the condition of your colon becomes worse, there is no other way but to go for surgically removing it.
What are the causes of Ulcerative Colitis?
In simple words, UC is mainly caused when your immune system fails to work effectively. The immunological functioning of your body decides whether you are capable of resisting infection or becoming susceptible to it. There are various immunological barriers in your body that marks and ensures absolute protection from harmful invasion of microbes.
Here is an example for you as in what goes wrong with your immune system during the normal and abnormal defense.
When you have a common cold under normal conditions, your immune system identifies foreign bacteria or viruses as intruders and fights. However, in UC your immune system identifies the good bacteria in your gut, food, and cells lining the colon as intruders. Thus, your body’s own immune system turns against you. WBCs or white blood corpuscles normally protects you during infections, but now turns against the walls of your colon. Such kind of undesired immunological mechanism causes inflammation in your colon linings and results in the formation of ulcers.
If you seek the attention of doctors to know why UC happens, they might not be able to reason you. It is still not quite medically clear as to why ulcerative colitis happens in the first place. The possible reasons to support your questions may be an unhealthy lifestyle, environmental factors, and food habits. Adding on to that, another prominent reason behind UC can be a genetic predisposition. If you have UC running in your family for generations, there is a possibility that you may inherit the disease. Stress and anxiety are not directly related to causing UC, but you never know how it’s contributing towards its induction.
Possible symptoms of ulcerative colitis:
The most prominent sign of ulcerative colitis that you will experience is bloody diarrhea. If you closely observe your stools, you may also notice the presence of pus. These two symptoms are clearly indicative of the fact that you have ulcerative colitis. Other characteristic features of being affected by UC are:
- Cramping pain in your belly
- Feeling of fullness or not hungry
- Sudden loss of body weight
- Abnormal discharges for emptying your colon at once
- Pain in your joints or soreness
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Mouth ulcers or canker sores
- Skin sores
- A certain feeling like your colon is still not empty even after going to the bathroom
- Pain in the eyes when you suddenly look at bright lights
- Anemia (lowering of the number of RBCs in your bloodstream)
- Difficulty in controlling your stools or hold it
These symptoms may abruptly hit you right away, subside after some time and again come back. Ulcerative colitis can bother you for several weeks, months or even years. You need to be very careful with your food habits during such vulnerable times.
One more thing that you should remember while looking for a cure for UC, is to never confuse Ulcerative colitis with Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel disease. The treatment may go horribly wrong if you think the other way.
Even though Crohn’s disease also causes swelling of your abdomen, but it doesn't concern any region of the digestive tract. For ulcerative colitis, it is not just any region but specifically the large intestine and inner lining of your colon. Irritable bowel disease also reflects some of the signs of UC, but it does not cause ulcers or inflammation. IBS is strictly restricted to causing problems within the inner lining of muscles of your intestines.
How to diagnose Ulcerative Colitis?
When you visit a doctor regarding the treatment of ulcerative colitis, he will first give some diagnostic tests for detection. Different tests are assigned to different forms of bowel diseases. You will be suggested the tests specific to UC, distinct from any other gut diseases. Some specific blood tests will help you identify whether you are anemic or have inflammation. You may be asked to perform stool tests as well for the detection of any unnatural pus in it. Stool tests will majorly reveal if you have any parasites or infection causing microbes in the lining of your colon. Through these tests, you may also see traces of blood in your stool that you couldn’t normally figure out. Other diagnostic tests include flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy.
- In flexible sigmoidoscopy, the doctor majorly focusses on not the whole colon but just its lower part. Through your butt, the doctor will insert a bendy tube in the lower colon area. This tube has a small camera and a light source to capture images for detection of ulcers and inflammation.
- In a colonoscopy, the doctor scans your entire colon for the presence of ulcers and swollen areas, unlike flexible sigmoidoscopy. During the detection, the doctor may even introduce a blue colored dye within your colon. Such kind of advanced colonoscopy is known as chromoendoscopy. The doctor uses color dyes for the detection of regions in your colon that has been affected by ulcerative colitis.
Sometimes doctors can even perform a biopsy, by removing small chunks of your colon for UC diagnosing tests. X-rays are generally not used for UC detection.