Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease were the colon is inflamed and ulcered.  It is most commonly experienced as chronic diarrhoea, with blood and lower stomach pain.
Ulcerative colitis can be experienced at any age, but commonly emerges in young adults, 15-25 years, and in older adults, 50-70 years.  Women are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis than men.

What are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?

  • Bloody diarrhoea
  • Pain the lower stomach
  • Explosive bowel motions
  • Sense of urgency around going to the toilet
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloating of the stomach

How is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?

If the symptoms suggest ulcerative colitis, then the diagnosis is made using a colonoscopy.  This is where the specialist looks at the area with a camera and may take samples for testing.

How is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?

Treatments focus on reducing the inflammation of the colon thereby minimising the complications caused by the inflammation.

Anti-Inflammatory Medication
Specific Anti-inflammatory medications (containing 5-ASA) help to reduce the irritation in the colon. These medications are often taken long term to help prevent symptoms getting worse.

Immune Medication

Because it is the bodies own immune defences that create the inflammation, medications targeting these specific immune responses can be used to stop the inflammation from beginning.
Where inflammation is severe, antibiotics may be used to reduce the infection.
Anti Diarrhoea Medication
May be used sparingly to help deal with the symptoms.
Although rare, in severe cases the colon and rectum may be surgically removed.  The Surgeon may be able to construct a small pouch at the end of your intestine in which to hold your stool.  This pouch is then attached to your anus allowing you to pass stool relatively normally.  If this procedure is unable to be performed, then a colostomy bag (an external bag used to collect stool) would have to be used.
Cancer Screening
Ulcerative colitis brings with it increased risk of developing colon cancer.  Screening colonoscopies are therefore recommended and your doctor will advise how often these should be done.
There is no scientific evidence that diet can treat ulcerative colitis, but many people find that certain foods make their symptoms worse.  A food diary can help identify which food may exacerbate your symptoms and then that food can be avoided.

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