Ulcerative Colitis – It Can Be a Pain in the Butt!
Ulcerative Colitis – Can Be a Pain in Your Butt!
Whether we like it or not, the title of this post is accurate. And before you are diagnosed, the blood in your commode can scare you to death. Ulcerative colitis affects the large part of your intestine. It will cause inflammation which is nothing but swelling and irritation inside your gut. That almost always will lead to your gut lining having sores or ulcers.
Most people do not realize that ulcerative colitis falls under the umbrella of autoimmune diseases as so many other conditions do this day and time. Ulcerative colitis is different from other illnesses in that it seems to have similar symptoms and get confused with, for instance, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. As with other autoimmune disorders, there is not a cure yet, and you will suffer from those ugly flares now and then for the rest of your life. If you follow your doctor’s orders and take the right medications and treatments, your doctor has prescribed, it can help you keep the disease at a manageable level.
Most people when they get an illness want to know what has caused this to happen? I do not blame you! That would be my first question. Ulcerative colitis starts when your immune system turns on you and makes a terrible mistake. Your immune system usually will attack foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses that invade your body, for instance, the common cold. But if you have ulcerative colitis, the immune system will start to think that healthy gut bacteria, food, and the cells that are supposed to be in your colon are all bad intruders.
Your white cells or leukocytes that are the blood cells that protect you start working against the inside lining of your colon. They start causing the ulcers, sores, and the inflammation.
No one is sure why ulcerative colitis begins, and that certain people get the condition. Genetics could play a role as this disease seems to sometimes run in families. They think that there may be environmental factors at play. It seems that some foods and stress can bring on a flare, but they do not cause ulcerative colitis.
If you are reading this blog, I am sure you are looking for some answers, and you may be looking if you or a loved one may have some of the symptoms. Some symptoms you might notice with ulcerative colitis is pus in your stools and bloody diarrhea. Other symptoms you may start to see are urges that come on suddenly to empty your colon immediately, weight loss, belly pain that is accompanied by cramping; you just don’t feel hungry, you might run a fever, feel tired, have soreness or joint pain, get dehydrated, notice canker sores in your mouth, start having pain in your eyes when you must look at bright lights, become anemic from bleeding from the rectum, lesions appear on your skin, you feel like when you have used the bathroom that your colon has not emptied completely, wake up at night to have a bowel movement, and you might start having fecal incontinence.
Every symptom I have noted above can appear when you have a flare, or you may only have just a few of them. The symptoms can go away for a few weeks, a few months, and boom, they are back again. You may be lucky, and they may not bother you for years.
There are other diseases of the gut that cause some of those same symptoms. Think about it, Crohn’s disease does cause inflammation just like ulcerative colitis, but Crohn’s can happen anywhere in your gut. Irritable Bowel can also share some of the same symptoms as Ulcerative Colitis, but it brings with it no ulcers or inflammation. Irritable Bowel is a troublemaker with the muscles of your gut. Ulcerative colitis ONLY affects the inside lining of your large intestine. It is very choosy where it resides.
I can hear you fussing before I even tell you about what you must do to be diagnosed.
First and foremost a simple blood test can tell the doctor if you are anemic and if you have already lost enough blood to be worried or if there is inflammation present.
A stool sample will probably be requested so that the lab can test it for parasites or possibly an infection that may be in your colon. It will also show if there is any blood in your poop that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The doctor may want to use a flexible sigmoidoscope to go in through your rectum and view the lower part of your gut. It is a bendable tube and has a tiny light and a camera at the end. The doctor has the ability with this instrument to take a small sample of the lining inside your large intestine (a biopsy), so a pathologist can take a look at it under a microscope. The pathologist will be able to help your doctor make a diagnosis.
There is another test called a colonoscopy which is much like the prior test, the flexible sigmoidoscope, but in this case, the doctor will go all the way through your entire gut, not just the bottom part.
And there will be times that the doctor may order some x-rays, but this usually does not give him the information he wants to diagnose ulcerative colitis.
People with ulcerative colitis are more prone to colon cancer. The longer you have been diagnosed with the disease, the bigger your chance of developing cancer. Due to this higher risk, you must have regular screenings to watch for colon cancer. You will find that your doctor will recommend screenings about every one to three years so he can detect if your colon lining has developed any precancerous cells.
There are other complications that can develop from ulcerative colitis: your intestinal wall can get thicker meaning that the inside will be much smaller for stool to pass through, you could develop sepsis (blood infection), become severely dehydrated, your colon could rapidly swell generating into a toxic megacolon, you could get a liver disease albeit rare, intestinal bleeding, kidney stones, your colon could even rupture, and you could also get ankylosing spondylitis that involves the joints between the bones in your spine becoming inflamed.
In treating ulcerative colitis remember it will always be with you since it is a chronic condition. Treating it will become a way of life, and usually, the first line of treatment is with medication, and sometimes surgery will become necessary. Using medication is mostly to reduce inflammation that is bringing on the symptoms you are experiencing.
Drugs used to reduce swelling, and inflammation for ulcerative colitis are mesalamine, sulfasalazine, balsalazide, olsalazine. If the inflammation can be brought under control, it will make most of your symptoms disappear.
If your case is more severe, you may have to take corticosteroids, other medications that suppress your immune system, antibiotics, and some medicines that are called biologics that work differently by blocking inflammation to calm your entire gut down.
If your symptoms get even more severe, it will be necessary for hospitalization to hydrate you and level out your electrolytes that diarrhea has probably caused and to treat you for any other complications that may have reared their ugly head.
Every once in a while it will be necessary to go to surgery to stop massive bleeding or chronic symptoms so terrible that you cannot function with daily living. You may develop a perforation in your intestinal wall or could even develop a blockage.
Sometimes the surgery will require taking out your entire colon and making a new path for waste. This new path can be formed through a little opening in the wall of your abdomen or even directed to the end of your anus.
If they must redirect your waste through the wall of your abdomen, your doctor will bring the tip of the end part of your small intestines through the skin’s surface where he has prepared a tiny hole. Your waste will go through that opening into a special bag. It is called a colostomy.
If your doctor can redirect everything out through your rectum, he will take out the diseased part of the gut and keep the outside muscles of the rectum. The doctor will then take the end of your small intestine and attach it to your rectum to make a little pouch. You will be able to have bowel movements as before except they will be more watery and more often than they were before the surgery.
Unfortunately, constipation can also be a possible complication of ulcerative colitis. There is a more significant risk of ulcerative colitis constipation if your rectum is inflamed. It is called proctitis. It will interfere with your regular bowel activity, making it hard to pass bowel movements. Should this happen to you, remember that a natural laxative can be the best way to remedy this situation.