The ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease, chronic intermittent and the large intestine (colon) and rectum, characterized by diarrheal stools accompanied by mucus or blood, associated with abdominal pain and other systemic symptoms. This disease is also called idiopathic chronic ulcerative colitis.
The ulcerative colitis is part of inflammatory diseases of the intestine (IBD), Crohn's disease where and indeterminate colitis are also included, these being different for areas of the affected intestine and that present clinical manifestations.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
This disease manifests itself in two age groups mainly, between 15 to 30 years of age and, later, between 50 to 70 years. Its cause is unknown, but there are several factors that can trigger it.
Evacuations increase in frequency and quantity with a decrease in consistency, they can be accompanied by mucus and blood and even purulent material, due to damage to the intestinal mucosa. Rectorrhagia (or presence of red blood in the stool) is a predominant symptom in this disease. In the most severe cases, bloody diarrhea can be scant and occasional to become continuous and intermittent.
Due to the inflammation of the colon and rectum, patients frequently complain of pain, colic type, which is located in the lower left part of the abdomen.
Other gastrointestinal symptoms
Other symptoms that usually accompany diarrhea and abdominal pain are rectal urgency (an annoying feeling of wanting to continue evacuating even though the rectum is empty), abdominal distension and increased bowel movements that cause stomach discomfort and a feeling of gurgle.
In adults, weight loss can occur associated with both the disease and the decrease in consumption of certain foods that are avoided in order not to worsen gastrointestinal symptoms. In children, weight loss is accompanied by short stature, which affects growth.
Febrile episodes may occur in some patients due to the passage of bacteria from the ulcer from the intestine to the bloodstream, generating an immune response that produces fever.
Due to blood loss through stools, patients often have anemia accompanied by pale skin.
It occurs as the heart's response to continuous blood loss and dehydration caused by bloody diarrhea.
Manifestations on skin and mucous membranes
In some patients, ulcer-like lesions may appear on the skin and on the oral and nasal mucosa. These lesions do not necessarily appear alongside gastrointestinal symptoms, but may originate even before colonic symptoms appear.
In the event that any of these symptoms persist, you should see a doctor for a correct evaluation and to determine whether a colonoscopy is needed to diagnose ulcerative colitis.
How to differentiate ulcerative colitis from Crohn's disease?
Although these two diseases are part of the group of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, both present differences in terms of the location of the lesions and their clinical manifestations.
In Crohn's disease, lesions can appear throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth to the anus, so the symptoms depend on the portion affected. In addition, intestinal lesions are interspersed with healthy tissue and can be complicated by the formation of abscesses, stenosis (narrowing of portions of the digestive tract), and fistulas (communication between two segments of the intestine); what does not happen in ulcerative colitis.
Causes of ulcerative colitis
Until now, the exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, although it is known that the immune system plays an important role in the mechanism of production of this disease since there is a genetic component (children and direct relatives of patients with inflammatory bowel disease have a greater predisposition of suffering).
In addition, there are studies that indicate that certain external agents such as food or bacterial infections can trigger a local inflammatory response that causes damage to the intestinal mucosa, which, if not controlled, can spread to the entire large intestine, producing colitis.
Once the disease is established, situations arise that trigger or worsen symptoms, such as stress, cigarettes, gastrointestinal infections, medications such as antibiotics and pain relievers, foods such as grains, spicy and sausages.
By virtue of this, patients are recommended that in addition to strictly complying with the treatment indicated by the gastroenterologist, they should maintain a healthy and balanced diet, consume drinking water in order to avoid intestinal infections, wash food well and avoid medications that do not have been indicated by the treating physician; especially non-steroidal pain relievers.
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