Ulcerative Colitis Fact Sheet
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a gastrointestinal disease of the colon that affects about ½ million American citizens. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are both classified as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, and both cause similar symptoms of stomach upset, chronic diarrhea, fatigue and fever. IBD is also one of many causes of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Here are some basic facts about ulcerative colitis and some tips for natural, effective treatment.
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory illness that occurs in the large intestine (colon) and rectum, and causes debilitating and sometimes hazardous symptoms to the sufferer.
Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that is restricted to your colon, unlike Crohn’s disease, which may occur in any part of your gastrointestinal tract.
Not to be confused with colitis, a type of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that carries no serious health risks, ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that can cause potentially life-threatening damage to your colon. For many sufferers of longtime ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal surgery is required in order to prevent further complications.
Scientists aren’t certain what causes ulcerative colitis, but many believe it results from an autoimmune disorder.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
There are several types of ulcerative colitis, and the symptoms vary according to the specific location of inflammation.
The most common phases of ulcerative colitis, ranging from mildest to most severe, include the following symptoms:
- Rectal bleeding and pain
- Pain on the left side of the stomach, in addition to diarrhea, bloody stools and loss of appetite
- Pain in the lower area of the colon, in addition to diarrhea, bloody stools and difficulty producing bowel movements
- Severe diarrhea and bloody stools, chronic fatigue, intense stomach cramps, and unintended weight loss
- Life-threatening symptoms such as extreme, pervasive diarrhea, fever, and severe dehydration. Possible complications may include rupturing or bloating of the colon.
Treating ulcerative colitis
Below are some prescription treatments and natural supplements that are beneficial for people suffering from ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- Anti-inflammatories such as sulfasalazine (sulfa), mesalamine, balsalazide, olsalazine, and corticosteroids are helpful for reducing inflammation in the colon. Many carry side effects, including allergic reactions, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. Corticosteroids, in particular, carry a host of warnings, including weight gain, facial hair, depression, anxiety, hypertension, bone loss, type 2 diabetes and cataracts.
- Since ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease, your doctor may recommend an immune system suppressor that also treats inflammation, such as azathioprine or cyclosporine.
- Antibiotics are recommended in the presence of infection of the colon.
- Anti-diarrheal medicines such as Imodium may help to relieve some of the symptoms.
- For stomach cramps, doctors recommend pain relievers containing acetaminophen, and warn their patients to avoid ibuprofen, which can exacerbate stomach problems.
- Iron deficiency often occurs with IBD, so patients are advised to take regular iron supplements, in order to prevent anemia.
- Vitamin B12 supplements are also often recommended, as severe damage to the digestive system results in an inability to absorb vitamin B12 efficiently from foods. In order to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, patients of IBD are advised to take large doses of non-dietary vitamin B12, usually as a vitamin B12 shot or over-the-counter (OTC) form of vitamin B12.
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