Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a serious chronic inflammatory disease that affects the large intestine. It is one of two major diseases classified as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) – the other being Crohn’s Disease. It is classified as an autoimmune disease as T-cells infiltrate the colon.
When UC is in its active phase (a ‘flare’), it causes severe diarrhoea and bloody stools, often combined with intestinal cramps, joint pain, chills, night sweats, nausea, temperatures and weight loss. The bleeding is caused by ulcers that form along the lining of the colon.
The symptoms of UC can lead to dehydration and anaemia, and can result in hospitalisation and, in severe cases, surgery. Flares can usually be brought under control by a course of steroids (cortisone), and managed through chronic medication.
No one knows exactly what causes ulcerative colitis. There may be a genetic element, as well as other factors that predispose an individual to the condition, including cultural background, age, diet and, to a lesser degree, exposure to bacteria or viruses.
Due to the often ’embarrassing’ symptoms of UC and Crohn’s, many patients resist visiting a doctor for months of even years. In some cases, they end up in hospital (like me!) before being diagnosed. However, I can assure you that the tests are far less scary than the symptoms themselves (which make you feel like you’re dying, right? You’re not 🙂 ).
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, especially large amounts of bloody diarrhoea, you need to get yourself to a doctor ASAP. IBD is completely manageable through proper medication and diet, and there’s no reason to be scared or embarrassed because of your symptoms.