What is it?
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).Its a long-term condition, where the colon and rectum become inflamed . Small ulcers can develop on the colon’s lining, and can bleed and produce pus. The inflammation causes your bowel to move its contents rapidly and empty frequently. As cells on the surface of the lining of your bowel die, ulcers form. The ulcers may cause bleeding and discharge of mucus and pus. While this disease affects people of all ages, most people are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35. After age 50, another small increase in diagnosis for this disease is seen, usually in men
What are the symptoms?
The seriousness of symptoms varies among affected people. However, symptoms can be severe. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include: * abdominal pain * increased abdominal sounds * bloody (tummy) stools * recurring diarrhoea, which may contain blood, mucus or pus * fever * rectal pain * weight loss * malnutrition * fatigue (extreme tiredness) * weight loss. Ulcerative colitis may cause additional conditions such as: * joint pain * joint swelling * nausea and decreased appetite * skin problems * mouth sores * eye inflammation The severity of the symptoms varies, depending on how much of the rectum and colon is inflamed and how severe the inflammation is. For some people, the condition has a significant impact on their everyday lives. Some people may go for weeks or months with very mild symptoms, or none at all (known as remission), followed by periods where the symptoms are particularly troublesome (known as flare-ups or relapses). During a flare-up, some people with ulcerative colitis also experience symptoms elsewhere in their body. For example, some people develop: * painful and swollen joints (arthritis) * mouth ulcers * areas of painful, red and swollen skin * irritated and red eyes In severe cases, defined as having to empty your bowels six or more times a day, additional symptoms may include: * shortness of breath * a fast or irregular heartbeat * a high temperature (fever) * blood in your stools becoming more obvious In most people, no specific trigger for flare-ups is identified, although a gut infection can occasionally be the cause. Stress is also thought to be a potential factor.
- Eat small meals – eating five or six smaller meals a day, rather than three main meals, may help control your symptoms
- Drink plenty of fluids – it’s easy to become dehydrated when you have ulcerative colitis, as you can lose a lot of fluid through diarrhoea. Water is the best source of fluids.
- Take food supplements as you might not be getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet
- Keeping a food diary that documents what you eat can also be helpful. You may find you can tolerate some foods while others make your symptoms worse. By keeping a record of what and when you eat, you should be able to identify problem foods and eliminate them from your diet.
- Examples of foods that can be eaten as part of a low-residue diet include: white bread refined (non-wholegrain) breakfast cereals, such as cornflakes white rice, refined pasta and noodles cooked vegetables (but not the peel, seeds or stalks) lean meat and fish eggs
- exercise – this has been proven to reduce stress and boost your mood
- relaxation techniques – breathing exercises, meditation and yoga are good ways of teaching yourself to relax
- communication – living with ulcerative colitis can be frustrating and isolating; talking to others with the condition can help
- Limit your intake of high-fiber foods
- Avoid fatty foods
- Lower your intake of milk if you’re lactose intolerant
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these will make your diarrhoea worse – and fizzy drinks, which can cause flatulence (gas)
Things to watch out for
Contact your GP if you have symptoms