Day 1 ~ Learning

What is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

What is ulcerative colitis?

Like CD, UC has a history that predates when it was actually named in a medical journal article. In fact, cases have been documented in medical literature greater than 200 years ago. However, with the greater presence of dysentery and other infectious diseases, it made it harder for physicians to definitively distinguish between infectious and non-infectious colitis.

One important invention that debuted in 1913, the electric sigmoidoscope, changed the course of the research on the subject of ulcerative colitis, a term that appears in an English doctor's paper in 1859 regarding an autopsy of a woman who suffered from diarrhea and fever.

The sigmoidoscope allowed physicians to literally shine a light upon this little known phenomenon.

Greater strides were made in the next few decades in separating the cases of ulcerative colitis from those of infectious origin. What is understood now about UC is that it strikes the large intestine or colon, unlike Crohn's which affects the entire GI tract. Found from the cecum to the rectum, UC tends to spread in areas that are close to where it begins, not skipping around as CD does at times. It also appears to affect primarily the mucosa and doesn't burrow through the bowel wall.

Named for the areas that it strikes, UC can go by other names such as ulcerative proctitis (affecting the rectum only) and proctosigmoiditis (the rectum and the sigmoid colon). As the disease reaches further up the descending colon to the splenic flexure (located at the corner of the transverse colon and the descending colon), the disease gains the name of left-sided colitis. When it takes over the entire colon, it is called panulcerative colitis or total colitis.

The disease manifests itself in the mucosa. Changes at that level lead to the inflammation and ulceration that in turn cause a disturbance in the absorption of salt and water. The malabsorption of the water leads to diarrhea; damage to the mucosa can also lead to excessive amounts of mucous in the fecal matter. The ulcerations cause bleeding, which can lead to anemia. Abdominal pain, fever, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss often accompany the disease as well.

Ulcerative colitis also can manifest itself in other areas of the body such as the liver, the eyes, the skin, the joints and the kidneys and can account for symptoms such as strange bumps on the skin, a reddened or itchy eye, kidney stones, gallstones, swollen and painful joints.

There are a number of medical treatments that are effective in reducing or controlling the inflammation process in UC patients and there are surgical options when the medical efforts fail, such as when scar tissue threatens to block intestinal openings. There is a cure for UC that involves removing the colon, rectum and anus, leaving the patient with a stoma opening in the abdomen.

Due to advancements in medicine and medical technology, both diseases now have extremely low mortality rates.

Click here to continue reading First Year: Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis.

All information is copyrighted by Jill Sklar, 2002. All rights reserved. BBB Business Review