Colitis means inflammation of the colon, and Ulcerative Colitis is a condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed without an obvious cause.
This can be triggered by an infection but often just develops as bloody diarrhoea. For reasons that are unclear, it sometimes involves symptoms in other areas; mouth ulcers, eye irritation, swollen joints, or even liver problems.
These side effects can be debilitating, as can the direct effects of ulcerative colitis, including damage to your colon over time. Thankfully, once correctly diagnosed, the condition is controllable in most cases.
Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis
Diagnosis starts with a careful examination, medical history and family history. Analysing blood and stool samples can be helpful, including to check for other kinds of infection. A sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy allows your specialist to see inside your bowel, take high resolution images and tissue samples for biopsy. If necessary, other imaging modalities including ultrasound and MRI are available.
Ulcerative Colitis Treatment
For mild to moderate disease, an anti inflammatory drug called mesalazine ( similar to aspirin) is effective. This acts directly on the colon lining and has very few side effects.
In more severe cases, corticosteroids can be valuable in reducing inflammation, although can have notable side effects longer term. Immunosuppressants such as Azathioprine are an alternative for ongoing control.
TNF inhibitors, such as Infliximab, or Adalimumab or the anti-integrin antibody Vedolizumab are further options. They reduce the over production of a natural protein and can suppress your body’s inflammatory process.
Whilst food is rarely the aggravating factor in ulcerative colitis, intolerance of sugar lactose in dairy products can be. Along with every treatment option, this will be considered to achieve the best outcome for you.
Caring For Our Patients
Ulcerative colitis can by nature involve periods of remission. alternating with acute flare-ups. One of the aims of treatment is to induce long term remission and quality of life. Because we don’t know what causes the disease, we usually see patients at intervals for many years.