Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that indicates ulcers in the digestive tract, along with inflammation of the inner linings of the large intestine, colon and rectum. These ulcers are long-lasting, so it’s important to get them taken care of when you first notice symptoms, which often develop slowly.
The digestive health experts at Central Maine Healthcare specialize in diagnosing ulcerative colitis, and help prevent or control the flare-ups that affect both your health and life.
Understanding Ulcerative Colitis
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can be debilitating if they progress. They include:
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal pain and bleeding
- An urgent feeling that you need to spend time in the bathroom, but once you get there nothing happens
- Weight loss
- When ulcerative colitis happens in children, they don’t grow at a normal rate
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unclear, though evidence suggests the immune system somehow malfunctions and triggers it. We also think it probably has ties to heredity, along with diet and stress. Complications can be serious, including severe dehydration, swelling in the colon, blood clotting and more, so it’s important to seek care if you experience any of the symptoms above.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Because the symptoms of ulcerative colitis can indicate a number of illnesses, our GI specialists use on a variety of diagnostic tests to zero in on the most accurate answers, such as:
- Blood testing for anemia, to determine if the patient’s blood has enough red cells to carry oxygen to the tissues
- Stool sample exam, to rule out certain infections
- CT scans, to see how much of the colon might be inflamed
- MRI screening for a more detailed picture of the digestive tract
If you’re diagnosed, your Central Maine Healthcare gastroenterologist will work with you to find the best treatment to stay on top of the condition.
Treating ulcerative colitis usually involves a combination of medications that perform specific tasks: you might be prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, along with immune-system suppressants that also can help stop the inflammation. Anti-diarrhea drugs, pain relievers and iron supplements might also be part of your program.
Lifestyle adjustments, including smaller meals, drinking more liquids, eating less fiber (if fiber aggravates your colon), more activity, and breathing exercises to control your stress can all be helpful. In extreme cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your colon if it’s been damaged.