Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which comprises a group of diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis generally occurs when the lining of the large intestine (colon or bowel) and the rectum become inflamed. This inflammation gradually produces tiny sores called ulcers on the lining of the colon. These ulcers usually begin in the rectum and spread upward, rarely affecting the small intestine beyond the lower portion. The inflammation causes the bowel to move its contents rapidly and empty. As cells on the surface lining of the bowel die, the ulcers form. This may cause severe bleeding and discharge of mucus or pus.
This disease affects people of all ages. However, the symptoms tend to develop in people aged between 15 and 30, or between the age group of 50 and 70. Depending on the severity of inflammation and the body part where it occurs, the ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary. Since the cause of this condition is unknown, researchers no longer believe that stress is at fault. Today, research focuses on the immune system and heredity for possible causes. The seriousness of symptoms varies among affected people. While in some cases the patient may incur mild symptoms, there are also other cases where the symptoms can be severe. Some common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Increased abdominal sounds
- Bloody stools
- Rectal pain
- Weight loss
In some cases, ulcerative colitis may cause additional symptoms such as:
Signs of ulcerative colitis
When an individual has ulcerative colitis, they are bound to experience a few problems with their stool, some of which include:
Water is usually reabsorbed back into the body from a stool while it is in the colon. But because of the colon inflammation, it is unable to reabsorb water from a stool. As a result, stool remains watery, causing diarrhea instead of solid stools. If the disease is severe, the urge to empty your colon can occur fast and often. To prevent this, you might have to go to the bathroom soon after you eat. Sometimes, it may even wake you up when you’re sleeping. Certain kinds of foods, like spicy dishes or food with a high fiber content, might only exacerbate the problem. As a result, such food items must be avoided by the patient in any case. Rather, they should opt for simple foods including oatmeal, banana, plain rice and boiled potatoes.
Frequent bowel movements
The rectum is where the stools are stored for a time. But when it is inflamed, it cannot hold the stool for long, resulting in frequent bowel movements. Due to these frequent bowel movements, the patient might feel extra lethargic and restless. Regardless, they must ensure to maintain a proper liquid diet.
Blood or pus in the stool
The most common sign of ulcerative colitis is diarrhea with blood or pus in it. The patient might not notice it in the toilet, but it is still possible that they might have blood in their stool and simply be unable to see it. Ulcerative colitis causes ulcers along the inner lining of the rectum and colon, these organs become inflamed as a result. If the ulcers are severe enough, they can begin to bleed. It is possible that some of this blood can be observed in the stool after a bowel movement. Sufferers of ulcerative colitis often notice blood on toilet paper after wiping.
Over time, the ulcers may also become infected. Thus producing pus, which is the product of the body’s attempt to fight infection. Pus can be observed in the stool as well, especially if the individual has had ulcerative colitis for a long time.
Just like stomach ulcers hurt, you can expect that ulcerative colitis will too. Sensory nerves can be found around all the organs in the body, including the colon and rectum. If the ulcers are severe enough, they may cause sensations of pain. Abdominal pain from ulcerative colitis can make the patient feel crampy and uncomfortable. It can happen before a bowel movement, or while you are in the process of performing a bowel movement.
The exact region where the pain is felt can vary depending on the affected area of the colon and rectum. The colon is fairly long and goes around the small intestines, rising to about the level of the stomach before descending down to the rectum. Ulcerative colitis often affects the lower region of the colon, though it can also affect other areas of the colon too, resulting in pain all around the abdomen. Some people with this disease have sore joints, while others noticed that their eyes incurred pain when they looked at bright lights.
There have also been complaints of fatigue and loss of appetite which leads to subsequent weight loss among those affected by ulcerative colitis. Diarrhea, loss of appetite, and not being able to absorb calories from food can make you lose weight. However, these are not directly the result of the condition, but rather the body’s reaction to the above symptoms.
It is also important to remember that ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition, which means that individuals may have the condition for weeks and even months before noting any symptoms. Besides, the severity of the symptoms will vary greatly depending on the area of the colon affected and how serious the ulcers are.
Some individuals may only experience mild symptoms, but certain trigger factors can exacerbate the symptoms, leading to:
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Red eyes which are easily irritated
- red and swollen skin on certain parts of the body
On the other hand, there are severe cases that have effects all around the body, causing:
If you have any of these symptoms, please seek medical advice from an expert. It is imperative that you get on a treatment plan as soon as possible.