Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a medical condition that causes inflammation and ulceration in the lining of the large intestine.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis is usually only in the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Forms range from mild to severe. It can lead to potentially life-threatening complications, similar to Crohn’s disease. Unlike Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis only affects your colon or your rectum, and it eats away only the innermost lining instead of eating all the way through. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of your large intestine, which can make you feel a frequent need to empty your bowels. Both Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. Your symptoms may gradually worsen if left untreated. Patients with ulcerative colitis are at a higher risk for colon cancer and should undergo regular screening that should be discussed with your gastroenterologist. Fortunately, effective therapies now exist for chronic treatment and management of this condition. If you have have symptoms that could be consistent with Ulcerative Colitis or have already been diagnosed, you should always be evaluated with a thorough consultation and examination by a physician for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan and to establish a surveillance regimen for colon cancer screening.
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Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
The most dangerous form of Ulcerative Colitis is called fulminant colitis. In this rare form, the disease affects your entire colon, causing a prolific amount of diarrhea, severe abdominal pain and shock. This can lead to a rupture colon which is a life-threatening complication.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis include abdominal pain, which can be severe, and diarrhea, which can be bloody. Depending on the type of ulcerative colitis, you may also experience the following:
- Eye inflammation
- A feeling of urgency
- Joint pain
- Kidney stones
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
Although the exact causes of Ulcerative Colitis are not known, there are many theories and heredity is also an indicator. If a member of your family suffers from Ulcerative Colitis, you are more likely to get it. While anyone at any age can contract ulcerative colitis, it is more common for people under age 30 to be diagnosed with it. It may also affect men more than women and affect Ashkenazi Jews more than non-Jews.Symptoms suggestive of Ulcerative Colitis require a complete diagnostic evaluation by your gastroenterologist.
Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms suggestive of Ulcerative Colitis require a complete diagnostic evaluation. Blood tests and stool samples are part of the evaluation. A colonoscopy will need to be performed in order to full visualize the entirety of the colon and obtain biopsies for a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. Our specialists must first rule out a number of other diseases such as ischemic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer and others which can present with similar symptoms. You should see your gastroenterologist to establish a diagnosis and formulate your treatment plan.
Treating Ulcerative Colitis
Although there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, effective therapies now exist for chronic treatment and management of this condition that have drastically altered the natural history of this disease. Medicines, particularly, biologic therapies can help dramatically reduce the symptoms and even deliver a long-term remission. Treatment options includes a combination of 5 ASA drugs, immune system suppressors, biologic therapies and other modalities. Surgery is an option if medical therapy fail. Finally, if you suffer from Ulcerative Colitis, you need more frequent screenings for colon cancer as you have a higher risk of colon cancer. An effective surveillance colonoscopy schedule should be formulated by your gastroenterologist.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not definitive medical advice. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only trained, experienced physicians like our doctors can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
As best in class NYC gastroenterologists, our doctors provide highly personalized and comprehensive care. For more information about ulcerative colitis or to schedule an appointment with one of our GI doctors, please contact our Union Square/Chelsea, Midtown or Upper East Side NYC offices.
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