Ulcerative colitis (UC) affects about 1 million Americans, causing pain and other symptoms that can interfere with daily life. A type of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis can’t be cured, but there are lots of things you can do to manage and reduce its symptoms, including lifestyle changes and medication.
At Digestive Disease Specialists in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, our team has extensive experience treating patients who have ulcerative colitis. Here’s what our team wants you to know about ulcerative colitis, including why it happens, how it affects your bowels, and what you can do to keep it under control.
The basics of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that causes inflammatory damage in the digestive tract, primarily in the colon or large intestine. Over time, inflammation and irritation creates sores or ulcers in the tissues that line the colon, increasing the risk for bleeding, anemia, and other complications.
Ulcerative colitis occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue inside the colon. Although researchers don’t know exactly why some people get UC and others don't, they do believe that genes are probably involved. In fact, having a family member with UC increases your risk of developing the disease by about 30%.
Ulcerative colitis is one of two diseases that comes under the category of inflammatory bowel disease. The other is Crohn’s disease, which also causes inflammation and irritation, but it can affect any part of the digestive system.
It’s worth noting that inflammatory bowel disease is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome. Even though irritable bowel syndrome can cause some of the same symptoms, such as belly cramps, irritable bowel syndrome won’t cause permanent damage to the digestive system like inflammatory bowel disease can.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis can cause serious symptoms, such as:
- Belly cramps
- Blood or pus in the stool
- Rectal pain after moving your bowels
- Sudden urges to move your bowels
- Difficulty controlling your bowels (incontinence)
- Feeling like you haven’t emptied your bowels
- Unintentional weight loss
Some people with UC have symptoms in other areas of their body, including symptoms like sensitivity to bright lights or joint pain.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can range from mild to severe, and most people with UC go through periods of symptom activity (flare-ups) followed by periods of remission. Learning how to manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups is central to slowing the progression of the disease and enjoying a better quality of life.
Treating ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis treatment requires regular monitoring and checkups to make sure your plan stays on track. Our team is skilled in multiple UC treatments, which means you can feel confident your treatment plan will always be optimized for your health.
Depending on your specific needs, your treatment plan might include:
- Medications to reduce bowel inflammation
- Medications to control pain
- Dietary changes
- Stress management techniques
- Medications to control your immune system reaction
While stress and diet don’t cause UC, they can trigger flare-ups. Keeping a diary of your symptoms and flare-ups can help identify potential triggers, so we can fine-tune the lifestyle portion of your plan.
In more severe cases of UC or when more conservative measures don’t slow the progression of the disease, surgery may be the best treatment option. Our team is skilled in state-of-the-art surgeries, including minimally invasive techniques.
Take control of your ulcerative colitis
As a chronic disease, ulcerative colitis can have a significant impact on your quality of life. But with the right management regimen in place, you can reduce your symptoms and manage your disease for better physical and emotional health and wellness.
To learn how our team can help you manage your UC, request an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today.