A few hours after eating, you develop painful abdominal cramps and diarrhea. These are signs of a specific type of irritable bowel disease called ulcerative colitis. This is a disease that is not curable, but may go away on its own. In the meantime, your doctor will offer a number of ways to treat the symptoms so you'll be more comfortable. Here is what you need to know about this painful condition and what help is available.
Changes in the Intestinal Wall Cause Painful Symptoms
Doctors don't know what causes ulcerative colitis. It begins with irritated and swollen tissues in the large intestine and colon. When irritated, the tissues can develop sores that bleed freely. The irritated tissues causes a number of symptoms including:
- abdominal pain and cramps
- fresh blood in the stools
- bleeding from the rectum
Diagnosing Your Ulcerative Colitis
Your doctor will want to do a colonoscopy to visualize the irritated tissue in your large intestine and colon. A flexible tube, to which is attached a camera, is guided into your colon. Your doctor will view the images on a monitor while recording them for review later. They will look for the inflamed tissue and any ulcers that have developed. With the colonoscopy, your doctor can also take tissue samples of the wall of the intestine and colon. These samples will help rule out other types of irritable bowel disease, such as diverticulitis and Crohn's disease.
Treatment of ulcerative colitis begins by relieving you of the pain and other symptoms from a short-term flare up of the condition. The treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medications - These medications reduce the swelling in the tissues in the large intestine and colon. With the inflammation under control, the cramps, diarrhea and bleeding go away.
- Tissue removal - In an advanced case of this disease, part of the wall of the intestine may be severely damaged. This portion may need to be surgically removed to give you any relief, should the anti-inflammatory medications not help.
Once the immediate symptoms are reduced, your doctor will talk with you about lifestyle changes that will prevent flare ups of the bowel irritation. This may include:
- techniques for reducing stress
- participating in a smoking cessation program
- limiting your alcohol consumption
- identifying and limiting foods that trigger the inflammation
Regular Check Ups are Needed to Be Safe
Part of the lifelong treatment plan for ulcerative colitis is regular screenings of the large intestine and colon. The irritation of the intestine can conceal the development of cancer cells. Early detection of these cells makes treatment of the cancer more effective.
For more information, talk to a doctor, such as those at Northwest Gastroenterology Associates.