What is ulcerative colitis and what are its symptoms?

This condition occurs when the large intestine becomes inflamed and develops sores called ulcers. This condition often causes stomach pain, diarrhoea, and bloody bowel movements.

What do symptoms for ulcerative colitis look like?

Symptoms could be mild or severe, recurrent or rare. Whichever category you fall into, these include:

  • Bloody bowel movements
  • Rectum bleeding
  • Mucus secretion from the anus
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling and pain in the hips and knees
  • Swelling and pain in the eyes or skin

How can ulcerative colitis be tested and treated?

The primary way in which this condition is tested for is a colonoscopy.

When it comes to treatments, based on your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe a range of medications. These include:

  • Medicine that goes into your rectum. Generally used to reduce swelling, these take around 3-4 weeks before they start kicking in.
  • A brief course of steroid to reduce swellings (different from those used by athletes)
  • In more severe cases, stronger medicine will be used. The work with your immune system to prevent your colon from suffering further damage. These include 6-mercaptopurine, azathioprine, and anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) medication such as infliximab and adalimumab.

If medication and dietary changes don’t work, surgery is certainly an option. There are generally 2 types:

Surgery to remove the colon, rectum, and anus - for patients who undergo this procedure are no longer able to defecate in the normal way. Their bowel movements will come out through a hole in their stomach, with a bag to catch the bowel movements.

Surgery to remove the colon and rectum - after this procedure, your doctor will reconnect the intestine to the anus. Patients who undergo this surgery can have normal bowel movements.

What can I expect after treatment? 

For the most part, a woman’s ability to conceive is not affected by ulcerative colitis. However, if you want to get pregnant, it’s best to consult your doctor before doing so. This is because certain tests may need to be conducted both before and after pregnancy and because your doctor may need to switch your medicine. Certain types of medication may be detrimental to the health of your child.

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