Ulcerative colitis is a superficial inflammation of the large intestine which results in ulceration and bleeding. The patient experiences alternating periods with no or few symptoms and periods with frequent stomach pains and diarrhoea mixed with pus, blood and mucus.
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. It is not caused by bacteria. However, hereditary, infectious and immunological factors have been proposed as potential causes. The condition can lead to thinning of the bowels and sufferers have an increased risk of developing a certain type of cancer.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
Periods with diarrhoea, mixed with pus, blood and mucus which alternate with few or no symptoms.
When the colitis is active, the patient often has mild stomach pains, loss of appetite, weight loss and sometimes a fever.
The symptoms vary according to the extent of the disease.
The consequences of ulcerative colitis are:
Malnutrition, inflammation of joints, eyes and skin and an increased risk of cancer of the colon. In rare cases life-threatening internal bleeding can occur.
Flare-ups cannot be prevented but the severity of the attacks can be reduced. It is important that affected people follow preventative treatments carefully. Severe, acute flare-ups may confine the patient to bed. When the symptoms ease they should be able to resume their normal activities.
Most patients with ulcerative colitis do not need to restrict their diet as changes in diet have little effect on ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis can be treated with anti-inflammatory medication such as corticosteroids and aminosalicylates. Low doses of these drugs can be used to prevent flare-ups. These drugs need to be used correctly, so please consult your pharmacist for advice. In extreme cases surgical treatment, where part of the large intestine is removed, is necessary.