Approximately 750,000 people in the US are living with ulcerative colitis. While relatively less common than other bowel diseases, you probably can’t go very long without seeing an ad for medications that are designed to treat symptoms of UC. Perhaps you see these ads and realize that the symptoms they are talking about are ones you experience. Could you have ulcerative colitis? Fortunately, your gastroenterologist will be able to shed light on this issue.
What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic bowel disease that causes flare-ups of inflammation and bleeding ulcers in the colon and rectum, which can affect your ability to digest food. Ulcerative colitis is one of the two main types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).
What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Are you dealing with unexplained and persistent stomach pains accompanied by diarrhea? This can be an early warning sign that UC. In the very beginning, you may notice minor symptom flare-ups that can easily be attributed to a variety of other problems. So, it isn’t always easy to spot the signs of UC right away.
If you’ve been dealing with diarrhea and stomach pains that come and go or that last for days on end, it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist.
If UC goes untreated or undiagnosed, you may start to notice nausea, loss of appetite, or unexpected weight loss. Ulcerative colitis also causes symptoms that affect other systems of the body besides the digestive tract. Those with ulcerative colitis may also develop,
- Joint pain
- Sores and rashes
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, your gastroenterologist can prescribe medications, therapies or surgery, and recommend lifestyle changes that can help with symptom remission and reduce the number and severity of flare-ups. Treatment plans for UC typically include,
- Anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids
- Immunosuppressants reduce inflammation by suppressing the immune system
- Biologics, which also act on the immune system
- Pain relievers
- Dietary changes (eliminating gluten and dairy; limiting fiber intake)
- Stress management techniques
- Supplementation (iron may be prescribed if you have anemia caused by UC)
- Anti-diarrheal medications
- Surgery to remove the colon and rectum (in more severe cases)
When in doubt, call a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the gut including ulcerative colitis, and they can help you get the answers and care you need to make living with ulcerative colitis more manageable.