WHAT IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition (much like Crohn’s disease). It effects the colon (large intestine) and can be just distal involvement (ulcerative proctitis) or effect any length of the colon. We don’t know for sure what causes ulcerative colitis, but it is likely a combination of environmental, immunologic and bacterial factors. There is a genetic component as well. Much like in Crohn’s disease, with ulcerative colitis the patient’s own immune system is attacking the lining of the colon and causing chronic inflammation. Unlike Crohn’s, which can affect any section of the gastrointestinal tract, ulcerative colitis is confined to the colon. If left untreated it can progress to ulcers, obstructions, cancer and the need for surgery.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF ULCERATIVE COLITIS?
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can range from mild to severe and tend to come and go. The most common symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Bloody stool
- Fevers and chills
- Poor appetite
IS ULCERATIVE COLITIS TREATABLE?
The only cure for ulcerative colitis is surgical resection of the colon. Short of that, the goal is to control the disease process through the use of medications. The most important place to start is obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Making the diagnosis consists of a good physical exam, radiographic studies, lab work and colonoscopy. Once the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is confirmed, there are many different classes of medications that we use for treatment. They range from anti-inflammatory medications (like prednisone and mesalamine) to immunomodulators (like azathiopurine) to biologics (medications that are given by IV infusion or injection). There is also a lot of active research going on in ulcerative colitis treatment. We have a research division, GERSA (Gastroenterology Research of San Antonio), which specializes in trials of new treatments for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s. If you have ulcerative colitis or think you may have ulcerative colitis and wish to be evaluated please contact your physician or our office.