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Living with ulcerative colitis can be a constant gamble. You run to the grocery store, hoping this won't be the day when your disease flares up. You might get lucky, or your disease could hit again in the middle of the store, leaving you in a search for a bathroom. Let's talk about ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It's caused by a malfunction in the body's immune system. Normally, the immune system protects against bacteria and other foreign invaders. But in people with ulcerative colitis, it mistakenly attacks the rectum and intestines, causing them to swell up and thicken.
As a result, people with ulcerative colitis have bouts of severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. They can lose weight without meaning to.
If you've been experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor can test for ulcerative colitis with a colonoscopy. Your doctor can take a sample of your intestines, to diagnose ulcerative colitis and check for colon cancer, a risk associated with ulcerative colitis.
Medicines can help with the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. There are medicines to control diarrhea, and pain relievers to help with the abdominal cramps. There are also medicines that quiet the overactive immune response that causes ulcerative colitis.
Changing your diet may help control your immune system from attacking your intestines. Changing your diet can limit diarrhea and gas, especially when you're having active attacks. Your doctor may recommend you eat small meals throughout the day, drink plenty of water, and avoid high-fiber foods and high-fat foods.
You may feel worried, embarrassed, or even sad or depressed about having bowel accidents. Other stressful events in your life, such as losing a job or a loved one, may make your symptoms worse. Your doctor can help you manage your stress.
If your symptoms are severe, surgery to remove your large intestine may be the best way to cure your ulcerative colitis.
If you're experiencing any ulcerative colitis symptoms-like stomach pain, diarrhea, or unplanned weight loss, call your doctor. Although surgery is the only cure, treatments can relieve some of the uncomfortable symptoms, and help you to lead a more normal life-free from the constant stress of having to search for the bathroom.
- Last reviewed on 2/19/2016
- Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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