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Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis,ulcerative colitis treatment,Symptoms,Treatment

What is it

The  ulcerative colitis  is a disease that is associated with  excessive chronic autoimmune response, inflammatory and  (the patient suffers lifetime) of the large intestine (colon) and can affect any part of the bowel from mouth to anus.

This condition, which evolves through outbreaks where alternating active phases with inactive phases of variable duration, belongs, together with  Crohn’s disease , to  intestinal inflammatory diseases  and both are differentiated by the area of ​​involvement.

This type of inflammatory diseases do not have a single cause that justifies them and, according to the  Confederation of Associations of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis in Spain , there is a combination of multiple factors that cause them.

According to the  Spanish Foundation of the Digestive System (FEAD) , ulcerative colitis can appear at any age and  affects both men and women  although, even so, epidemiological studies show two age peaks: between 25-35 years and between 65-75 years

It is not a contagious or hereditary disease,  although there are certain genes that predispose the patient’s direct relatives to suffer it. According to the FEAD, the risk that the children of people with ulcerative colitis suffer from the disease is 6 percent.


Among the causes that can cause the appearance of the condition are:

  • Genetic factors : the genes involved are the so-called  susceptibility , that is, those that, if present, determine a greater risk of having a disease.

With respect to genetics, at present  it can not be determined that a single altered gene is the cause of the disease  since the genetic factors are multiple and act at different levels.

  • Immunological factors : according to the Confederation of Associations, the process in this regard would begin with a possible microbial aggressor that would activate the immune cells of the intestine and, in turn, these cells would trigger a defensive response.In the case of patients with colitis,  the cells eliminate the aggressor, but maintain a state of perpetual defense , so that the inflammation is maintained permanently.

In the specific case of ulcerative colitis, immunological factors may be the most likely cause, but even so, the reasons for contracting the disease remain almost unknown.

A risk factor includes having a family history of colitis or any autoimmune disease and, in the case of stress and feeding, these can trigger the symptoms, but not cause the disease.


This condition can occur gradually, or abruptly, and sometimes appears so suddenly that only symptoms can be eradicated with surgery. Their manifestations are very variable but the most common are:

  • Diarrhea : increased water in the stool and the number of stools. It is one of the most frequent symptoms, although it is not exclusive of this condition. In this type of patients, inflammation of the rectum makes evacuations difficult, which is why they are not very consistent. In cases of greater severity may be accompanied by blood or rectal sputum, which occurs alone or together with incontinence and incomplete bowel movements.
  • Abdominal pain : it is not usually one of the characteristic symptoms but it may be present in some patients, depending on the extent and the severity of the inflammation.
  • Rectal hemorrhage or rectal bleeding : it is another of the most frequent symptoms caused by the rupture of the blood vessels that are located in the intestinal mucosa.
  • Other symptoms can be  fever  in moderate and severe colitis caused by inflammation,  anemia  produced by rectal or intestinal blood loss,  fatigue ,  weight loss  and  psychological alterations,  among others.


Regarding preventive measures, since it is not known what are the exact causes of this condition, it is difficult for specialists to establish preventive measures.

Even so, these may be the maintenance of good eating habits or an exercise routine.


The types of ulcerative colitis are divided according to the severity with which it occurs:

  • Proctitis : in this case, the inflammation is located in the rectal mucosa that corresponds to the last 15 centimeters of the large intestine and this can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).
  • Left colitis : also called distal ulcerative colitis, includes all patients with involvement distal to the splenic angle (angle formed by the descending colon with the transverse colon).
  • Pancolitis : is the most infrequent type of ulcerative colitis, affecting only between 9 and 17 percent of patients with this disease. In this case, the colon is affected for the most part or completely.


According to the Spanish Foundation of the Digestive System, diagnostic methods are summarized in colonoscopy and other imaging techniques.

  • Colonoscopy : allows to visualize the entire mucosa of the colon, as well as taking samples of tissue. In this way, you can establish what is the severity of the disease and possible complications that may occur, such as infections .
  • Other imaging techniques : includes simple radiography (only serves to detect ulcerative colitis in cases where it is suspected that it may be severe) or capsule enteroscopy (to determine what type of colitis the patient suffers).


Currently, there is no medication that is able to cure the disease completely, but it can control the symptoms.

Within these treatments that can be used to reduce inflammation are:

  • The salicylates : which are responsible for reducing intestinal inflammation and are usually the first step of treatment in mild or moderate outbreaks of the disease and can be used orally, capsules or rectally.
  • Antibiotics : in those cases in which there are complications, such as fistulas and abscesses, in addition to the inflammation that can occur after surgery to remove the colon.
  • Corticoids : are those that are responsible for reducing inflammation in the periods in which the disease remains active.
  • Immunosuppressants : they try to regulate the immune system to control in a lasting way the activity of ulcerative colitis.

In addition to these treatments there are also biological therapies where drugs made from cell cultures are introduced for the treatment of intestinal inflammation or granulocytoaferesis, which consists of filtering the blood to eliminate the cells that make up the immune system.

Other data

In patients suffering from this disease, complications may occur, such as the development of cancer in the small intestine and colon .

In addition, the most serious episodes of this condition can lead to blockage of the colon, severe bleeding or serious infections that cause ruptures or perforations in that organ.

Other problems that can occur but that are infrequent can be a liver disease , sores or swelling in the eyes, nodules under the skin or ankylosing spondylitis.

Approximately half of people with this disease have mild symptoms, while more severe cases may not respond well to medications.

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Ulcerative colitis


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