The caecum, colon and rectum together form the large intestine. Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the large intestine, and can form anywhere in the colon or rectum. This condition in the intestine normally starts in the rectum and then extends to the colon. The cause of the condition is not known, but it results in inflammation of the lining of the large intestine, which breaks down or develops ulcers and bleeds. Ulcerative colitis generally starts between the ages 20 and 40, and is more commonly found in women than in men.
Symptoms and effects
Some of the warning signs of ulcerative colitis are diarrhoea with blood and mucus in the stools, stomach pain and fatigue. Severe cases of ulcerative colitis can affect the skin by causing rashes, the eyes by causing conjunctivitis, the liver by causing fatty deposits, the kidney by causing kidney stones, the gallbladder by causing gallstones, and the joints by causing some types of arthritis.
Line of action
A majority of people suffering from ulcerative colitis use a drug called 5-ASA for relief. The drug minimises the number of attacks. In severe cases, the patient may even need steroids. In case drug therapy fails, the affected area of the colon has to be removed. In rare cases, the whole colon is removed so that the intestine ends at the ileum (the end of the small intestine). In such a case, the surgeon will redirect the ileum into the abdomen, and attach a bag to the opening to drain the bowel contents.
Ulcerative colitis can lead to serious complications, some of which are:
- Perforation – a hole can develop in the digestive tract through which contents of the bowels can leak out, leading to a condition called peritonitis, an inflammation in the lining of the abdominal cavity.
- Toxic dilatation – this happens when the large intestine expands like a balloon, and may burst. If the ballooning fails to subside, the affected area will have to be removed.
- Colorectal cancer – Ulcerative colitis significantly increases the risk of colorectal cancer, and so the people suffering from colorectal cancer have to be closely monitored.