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Ulcerative Colitis: Information on Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Bowel Disease Inflammation Ulcerative Colitis (inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)) involves long-lasting information of the digestive tract that causes the formation of sores (ulcers). Typically, the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum are affected most, where the most common symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis develop slowly.

The effects of ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and if left untreated produce life-threatening complications. Medical science has yet to determine the cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, treatment can significantly reduce many of the harmful symptoms of the condition and even lead to long-term remission.

Irritable bowel syndrome (ulcerative colitis) is the body's atypical response to the immune system that functions by protecting the body from infection. The abnormal response of the immune system mistakenly identifies bacteria, food, and other substances in the large intestine as invading foreign materials. As a result, the body then defends the intestines using white blood cells that eventually cause ulcerations and chronic inflammation at the affected area.

There is a significant difference between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis where the former can affect any portion of the G.I. (gastrointestinal) tract. Alternatively, pace that (irritable bowel syndrome) affects only the large intestine. Additionally, Crohn's disease attacks every layer of the intestinal bowel wall compared to the inflammation and formation of ulcers on the lining of the large intestine caused by ulcerative colitis.

Who Is at Risk for Ulcerative Colitis?

While any individual can develop irritable bowel syndrome (ulcerative colitis), there are specific risk factors that tend to increase the potential chances of developing the disease. These risk factors often involve:

  • Ethnicity – Caucasians, and people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, have the highest risk of developing ulcerative colitis.

  • Age – The age of the individual is an important risk factor for developing the condition. ulcerative Colitis tends to occur in individuals before their 30th year or after age 60.

  • Family History – Both men and women have an increased potential risk of developing ulcerative. This could include a child, sibling, or parent who has suffered from the condition.

  • Taking Certain Medications – Medicines containing isotretinoin including Claravis, Accutane, Sotret, and Amnesteem for treating acne or scarring cystic acne tends to increase the potential risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome. However, medical science has yet to make a concise provable correlation between the active ingredient isotretinoin and ulcerative colitis.

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

Doctors have yet to determine exactly what causes ulcerative colitis. It was previously thought that stress and diet played key roles in the development of irritable bowel syndrome. However, recent studies have revealed that these factors simply aggravate the condition and not actually cause it.

Another possible factor that might cause ulcerative colitis includes a malfunctioning immune system that attempts to fight off invading bacteria and viruses as a response to perceived invading substances. While the immune system might safeguard the intestines from foreign invaders it also triggers an attack on helping digestive tract cells in an attempt to protect the body.

There may be a hereditary factor involved in acquiring ulcerative colitis where the individual inherits the condition from his or her ancestors. Some studies have revealed that many cases of ulcerative colitis occur in patients who have a family history of the disease in a child, sibling, parent or grandparent.


There are known serious complications that occur in individuals who suffer from euro bowel syndrome. These include:

  • Osteoporosis (severe bone loss)

  • Liver disease in rare cases

  • Severe dehydration

  • Perforated Colon where a hole developed in the large intestine

  • Toxic megacolon involving rapid swelling of the large intestine

  • Inflammation of the joints, skin, and eyes

  • Sores that develop the inside lining of the mild

  • Increased potential risk of developing blood clots and arteries and veins

Common Symptoms

The symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis (irritable bowel syndrome) vary greatly among individuals along with the location in the large intestine and the severity of inflammation. Doctors usually classify the condition based on its location in the body and associated symptoms that often include:

  • Rectal bleeding or tiny amounts of blood that are passed with stool

  • Rectal pain

  • Diarrhea with pus or blood

  • Abdominal cramping

  • Abdominal pain

  • Fever

  • Fatigue

  • The urgent need to defecate

  • Inability to pass stools despite urgency

  • Stunted growth and children

Nearly all cases of irritable bowel syndrome can be classified as mild to moderate, based on symptoms. However, it can worsen over time or go into remission unexpectedly.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

Irritable bowel syndrome is classified in where it develops in the large intestine. Mild conditions that are located in the rectum are referred to as ulcerative proctitis. If any portion of the large intestine is involved, the doctor typically classifies the condition as ulcerative colitis. This form of the condition usually affects younger individuals who developed more severe symptoms.

Any individual experiencing abdominal pain, diarrhea when awakening, ongoing diarrhea, bloody stools, or an unexpected fever that last for more than two days should seek out medical attention.

Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis

Validating a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is usually made after all other potential causes of the symptoms associated with the disease have been ruled out. In addition to performing a comprehensive physical examination and taking a family/personal history, the doctor will usually order a variety of procedures and tests to accurately diagnose irritable bowel syndrome. These include:

  • Blood Tests – The doctor may order blood tests to identify anemia occurring in the body when there are insufficient numbers of red blood cells to ensure all body tissue received adequate oxygen. In addition, the blood test can rule out any type of infection.

  • Colonoscopy – Using a lighted, flexible, long tube, the doctor can view the entire large intestine and take a biopsy (sample tissue) to be analyzed in a laboratory setting by a pathologist to help confirm the diagnosis.

  • Stool Sample – This test can identify any white blood cells that are found in the stool and rule out any other disorder like an infection caused by parasites, viruses, or bacteria.

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy – Inserting a flexible, slender, lighted tube, the doctor can examine the sigmoid portion of the large intestine to determine the severity of the inflammation without the need for performing a full colonoscopy.

  • CT Scan – Taking a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the pelvis and abdomen can determine the level of inflammation in the small intestine and reveal how much of the large intestine has become inflamed. Taking an x-ray of the abdominal region can help find any complication including a perforated colon.

Treating Ulcerative Colitis

Once an accurate diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome has been verified, the doctor can formulate an effective plan of care. This usually includes anti-inflammatory medications including corticosteroids and aminosalicylates. However, the doctor might also prescribe immune system suppressors, antibiotics, pain relievers, iron supplements, and anti-diarrheal medications. Another option for treating ulcerative colitis involves a surgical procedure by removing the rectum and large intestine.

Monitoring the large intestine for colon cancer is necessary to diminish the potential risk over time. Severe cases left untreated can develop into primary sclerosing cholangitis, a debilitating condition that affects the large intestine and rectum.


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