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Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic and progressive autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation and ulcers to develop in the intestines, which can be very uncomfortable or debilitating. Ulcers are breaks or holes in the protective lining that can cause bloody diarrhea, with or without mucus. One of the significant symptoms of UC  is a high urgency of bowel movements. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, bowel inflammation, and constipation. UC is not a fun condition to experience, to say the least! It is usually experienced in cycles of remission and relapse with periods of terrible high and thankfully low (or no) symptoms. The high periods can even lead to hospitalization. 

UC can develop at any age but is more likely to develop in people 15 to 30 years old. Interestingly, there seems to be a lower chance of developing UC if your appendix has been removed or if you are a smoker. This disease doesn’t play favorites, so there is no difference between men and women developing UC. Racial differences may be minimal compared to differences in diet and lifestyle. For example, a diet that includes eating refined sugars and processed grains may increase the likelihood of developing the disease.

As mentioned above, diet can be a risk factor; this may be because of an immune response to the food. Research continues to show that the food you eat can affect all parts of the body. People with genetic factors have an immune system that attacks non-harmful gut bacteria, and low gut microbiota diversity may also be a risk factor.

Ulcerative colitis often presents with other diseases. Data suggests that there is a relationship between UC and rheumatoid arthritis. Some experts think joint pain and swelling may be part of the same immune response responsible for ulcerative colitis. Other comorbidities include acute hepatitis (liver inflammation) and occasional skin conditions.

Treatments for UC aim at inducing a period of remission. All of them come with side effects, so your doctors, specialist and primary care, should all be informed about the medications that you are taking. A particularly unpleasant and severe treatment is a colectomy or bowel resection, which removes part of the affected colon. 20-30% of people with UC  may have to undergo this procedure. 

The good news is that researchers continue to look for better ways to treat UC. With your help, we can make a difference!  Visit our enrolling studies page to get involved in the latest clinical research.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Gajendran, M., Loganathan, P., Jimenez, G., Catinella, A. P., Ng, N., Umapathy, C., … & Hashash, J. G. (2019). A comprehensive review and update on ulcerative colitis. Disease-a-month, 65(12), 100851.

Lee, S. H., eun Kwon, J., & Cho, M. L. (2018). Immunological pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease. Intestinal research, 16(1), 26.

Attalla MG, Singh SB, Khalid R, Umair M, Epenge E. Relationship between Ulcerative Colitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Review. Cureus. 2019;11(9):e5695. Published 2019 Sep 18. doi:10.7759/cureus.5695


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Ulcerative Colitis is a rare inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with less than 200,000 cases per year. Ulcerative colitis can cause long-term effects on the body including inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract. This can affect the innermost lining of the large intestine as well as the rectum.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can range from mild to severe. Symptoms include rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain. Those who have Ulcerative Colitis are also at a greater risk of developing colon cancer.

Doctors usually diagnose the different types of ulcerative colitis according to its location in the large intestine. The different types of ulcerative colitis include:

Ulcerative Proctitis

This is when the inflammation is in the area closest to the rectum. Rectal bleeding may be a sign of this disease, and it tends to be the mildest form.

Proctosigmoiditis

This type of ulcerative colitis is confined to the rectum as well as the lower end of the colon (sigmoid colon). Symptoms include abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and the inability to move bowels, even though you feel as though you need to.

Left-sided colitis

If you have sharp pain on your left side, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping or weight loss, you may be experiencing left-sided colitis. This happens when inflammation extends from the rectum through the sigmoid and descending colon.

Pancolitis

Pancolitis often affects the entire colon. This can cause severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue and weight loss.

Acute severe ulcerative colitis

This form of colitis is rare. It is a severe form and it affects the entire colon. It can cause severe pain, profuse bloody diarrhea, fever and complete loss of appetite.

Although rare, ulcerative colitis can cause an abundance of health problems. It is imperative to participate in clinical trials in order to move medicine forward and help find effective treatments for ulcerative colitis sufferers. 

Resources: Cleveland Clinic, Crohn’s and Colitis


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More than just diarrhea…

 

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases include Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. These diseases cause inflammation in the digestive tract.  Both diseases can have similar symptoms such as diarrhea, urgency, abdominal pain and cramping, fatigue, and rectal bleeding.

 

What’s the difference between Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis?

Crohn’s Disease can cause inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus.  Ulcerative Colitis (UC) affects only the colon (also known as large intestine or large bowel). UC causes ulcers along with the inflammation and puts those affected at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

 

What causes Ulcerative Colitis?

Physicians used to believe that stress and diet choices caused ulcerative colitis. Physicians now believe that UC was already present, and can be aggravated by these factors.

Research has shown that the immune system plays a role in developing Ulcerative Colitis.

 

My own immune system is giving me this disease?

There is no clear cause of UC.  Medical science shows that an overactive immune system may be to blame. This can lead to continuous inflammation of the colon, and Ulcerative Colitis.

Many of the medicines currently prescribed to treat UC suppress (decrease the activity of) the immune system.

 

Is there a cure?

There is currently no medical cure for UC.  Medical treatment is available to help manage it. American hospitals experience 500,000 visits per year and 46,000 hospitalizations for Ulcerative Colitis. In severe cases, surgical removal of the colon does cure ulcerative colitis.

 

The Good News

New medicines are now being studied with ENCORE Research to find a cure for UC.  Please call for more information, or to schedule an evaluation to see if this is an option for you.

 

We look forward to talking with you!


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