...less medical jargon in a 'Quick Glance' format!
Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the rectum, colon, and infrequently the last part of the small intestine. The inflammation affects the inner lining of the colon, causing small sores, or ulcers. UC, along with a similar condition known as Crohn's disease, are collectively called Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease causes a whole range of inflammatory reactions in joints. This association can be easily explained by the fact that one of the functions of the GI tract is to rid the body of dangerous substances. If this protective barrier is damaged, toxic substances can enter the body and cause inflammatory and rheumatologic diseases. These antigens can collect in the synovial fluid of the joints, which can cause a local inflammatory response. They can also enter the bloodstream and cause a reaction from the immune system itself, leading to damage in joints and other tissues of the body.
Unfortunately, Western medicine tends to separate different body systems without looking at their intricate relationships. Inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis are both auto-immune diseases. They need to be looked at as "co-existing" conditions that influence and contribute to one another, rather than two separate, unrelated illnesses. Only a thorough approach that addresses the causes of auto-immunity and recognizes the interaction of IBD and arthritis can ameliorate both diseases.
Diarrhea, from only a few episodes to very frequently throughout the day
Abdominal pain and cramping that usually disappears after a bowel movement
Abdominal sounds - gurgling or splashing sound heard over the intestine
The cause is of UC is unknown. It may affect any age group, although there are peaks at ages 15 to 30 and then again at ages 50 to 70.
The disease usually begins in the rectal area and may eventually extend through the entire large intestine. Repeated inflammation leads to thickening of the wall of the intestine and rectum with scar tissue. Death of colon tissue may occur with severe disease.
The symptoms vary in severity and may start gradually or suddenly. Attacks may be provoked by many factors, including respiratory infections or physical stress. Emotional stress has not been shown to aggravate ulcerative colitis.
Risk factors include a family history of ulcerative colitis, or Jewish ancestry. The incidence is 10 to 15 out of 100,000 people.
The goals of treatment are to control the acute attacks, prevent repeated attacks, and help the healing of the colon. Hospitalization is often required for severe attacks. Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.
Medications that may be used to decrease the frequency of attacks include 5-aminosalicylates such as mesalamine and immunomodulators such as azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine. An intravenous medicine called infliximab has also been shows to improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Surgery to remove the colon will cure ulcerative colitis and removes the threat of colon cancer. Patients may need an ostomy (a surgical opening in the abdominal wall), or a procedure that connects the small intestine to the anus to help the patient gain more normal bowel function.