What is Ulcerative Colitis? [video]

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What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis, or UC, is a long-term condition that affects the colon, the exact cause of which remains in question. It is thought to be an autoimmune condition where the body mistakes friendly bacteria for harmful bacteria in the colon. A common theory is that the immune system responds to these bacteria by causing inflammation and swelling of the colon to prevent, what it believes is an infection. The patient may also experience painful sores that can bleed and produce pus.

What are the symptoms?

People with UC can have periods where they experience little or no symptoms. When a flare up does occur, common symptoms include: abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea with mucus or pus, anaemia, high temperature, dehydration, and a constant need to empty their bowels or otherwise known as tenesmus. This type of inflammatory bowel disease cannot be cured; however, the symptoms can be alleviated during a flare-up. Severe flare-ups, however, can require medical attention. They are classed as severe when 6 or more bloody stools are passed a day or a patient has a fever, rapid heartbeat, or anemia.

How is UC treated?

As UC cannot be cured, the symptoms of the flare-ups will be treated. If the symptoms are mild, then no treatment is required as mild UC usually clears up after a few days. On the other hand, if the UC is more severe then anti-inflammatory medication called aminosalicylates can be prescribed. If these fail to alleviate the symptoms then stronger anti-inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids are prescribed. Once symptoms are under control, then patients may be advised to regularly take aminosalicylates; doing so is called maintenance therapy and can prevent further flareups from occuring.

Living with UC.

As footballer Darren Fletcher knows, living with UC can be difficult. Despite having no cure, there are some tips that people with this condition should follow. Keep stress to a minimum, eat small meals more often, drink plenty of fluids, and ask your GP about possible food supplements as you may not be absorbing enough vitamins and minerals.

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