Ulcerative Colitis is one form of inflammatory bowel disease (the other being Crohn’s disease). It is driven by the immune system, and has a complex set of causes that include inherited (genes), environmental (for example it is less common in smokers), and those that relate to the bacteria that live in your gut (microbiome).
What are the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?
Common symptoms include a combination of:
- Frequent diarrhoea with blood and mucus
- Cramps related to bowel opening
Other symptoms can also occur, including:
- Fevers or sweats
- Mouth ulcers
- Joint pains
- Red or painful eyes
If you have had blood or stool tests they may reveal:
- Raised inflammatory markers eg CRP
- Elevated faecal calprotectin
How is Ulcerative Colitis diagnosed?
There is no specific test that can diagnose Ulcerative Colitis. The diagnosis is reached through a combination of:
- A careful history of your symptoms
- Blood and / or stool tests
- Endoscopic and biopsy results – either a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy
- On occasion cross-sectional imaging is required
This information needs to be considered by an expert gastroenterologist in order to determine the correct diagnosis.
How is Ulcerative Colitis treated?
Ulcerative Colitis is typically treated using medication. The medications aim to safely suppress the unwanted inflammatory response. These medications include tablets (e.g. steroids) and injectable drugs (commonly called ‘biologics’). Thankfully there are now a variety of medical options available, and it is very important that you see a specialist with the knowledge and experience to help you choose the correct medication. On occasion surgery is required for Ulcerative Colitis because it is not responding appropriately to medication. Your specialist will guide you as to when surgery is required.
How can I prevent Ulcerative Colitis?
As yet there I no reliable way to prevent Ulcerative Colitis. There is no specific dietary recommendation but it is reasonable to try and follow standard healthy eating advice.