When your bowels are healthy, it’s easy to take them for granted. But for the many Americans who suffer from colitis, bowel function is rarely far from their minds.
With locations in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, Digestive Disease Specialists helps patients manage their colitis symptoms with innovative treatment options tailored to their needs. If you suffer from colitis, here are three things our team wants you to know.
1. Colitis isn’t the same as colic or irritable bowel syndrome
Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the digestive tract. When people talk about colitis, they usually mean ulcerative colitis (UC). Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) inside your digestive tract — typically the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
In addition to belly pain, ulcerative colitis can cause other symptoms, such as:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Blood or pus in your stools
- Urgent need to move your bowels
- Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowels
- Rectal pain
- Weight loss
- Joint pain
Symptoms can vary over time and change as the disease worsens or if treatment is delayed.
Colic, on the other hand, is a type of gastric distress that happens in some infants, but it typically clears up as the infant grows or with a change of diet.
Ulcerative colitis is also different from irritable bowel syndrome, because while irritable bowel syndrome can cause belly pain, too, it doesn’t cause permanent changes to the bowel like UC can.
2. It’s more common than you think
If you have UC, it’s easy to feel isolated, like you’re the only one experiencing UC’s symptoms and complications. But UC is more common than most people think, with estimates indicating nearly a million Americans have the disease.
Of course, knowing you have a lot of company doesn’t do much to relieve your symptoms. But there are support groups for people with UC. That’s really important for getting the emotional support you need to help deal with the stress that can go with dealing with colitis symptoms.
Finding a support group — online or in-person — is easy. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation website offers a handy search tool on its website.
3. There’s no cure, but there are safe and effective treatments
Even though there’s currently no cure for ulcerative colitis (or Crohn’s disease, which is another form of inflammatory bowel disease), recent advances in treatment are helping patients manage their symptoms and improve the health of their digestive system.
People with UC typically go through “flare-ups” — periods when their symptoms are worse — followed by periods of remission, when symptoms are very mild and virtually unnoticeable.
To help you manage your symptoms and enjoy longer periods of remission, our team typically recommends treatments that combine lifestyle changes and medication. Lifestyle changes typically involve limiting foods from your diet, such as fatty foods that are difficult to digest. Medications usually focus on reducing inflammation or managing immune-system responses that could be triggering your flare-ups.
With ongoing treatment, most people with UC are able to avoid surgery and live healthy, normal lives. The key is to have regular follow-up visits with your doctor to make sure your treatment stays on track with your needs.
Managing your colitis symptoms
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition that requires ongoing treatment to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of serious bowel damage. The good news is, today’s treatments offer plenty of options, enabling our team to provide patient-centered care that’s focused on your unique needs.
To learn more about the treatment options we offer for ulcerative colitis, book an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.