Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a digestive disease that falls into the category of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This disease causes sores, called ulcers, and inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. UC can be a life-altering, dangerous condition if left untreated.
Understanding UC symptoms is an important part of remission efforts.
Among the list of commonly experienced symptoms, UC sufferers may notice cramps and/or pain in the abdomen area. This uncomfortable symptom can occur when a bowel movement is needed or immediately following defecation. In some cases, the cramping and pain may only be related to inflammation.
Another common symptom of UC is diarrhea and loose stools. It is also likely that diarrhea will have pus or blood in it. The bouts of diarrhea may be accompanied by a persistent sense of urgency, even when the colon is empty.
A sense of urgency may also be present immediately after a bowel movement. As a result of inflammation within the digestive tract lining, you may experience a need to defecate without actually needing to go.
Rectal pain and bleeding are symptoms frequently noticed by people who suffer from ulcerative colitis. A lot of these symptoms, similar to many others, is the direct result of other symptoms. In this instance, for example, the rectal discomfort is likely due to the occurrence of repeated episodes of diarrhea.
You may notice that you just do not want to eat despite being hungry. Most often this loss of appetite occurs because you instinctively want to avoid the abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. Some UC sufferers also experience severe nausea that contributes to appetite loss. It is important to eat, even if you eat smaller meals more frequently. Your body needs as many nutrients as you can provide, particularly to make up for what is lost as a result of the diarrhea.
Staying hydrated is an important part of being healthy under normal circumstances. Hydration is even more important with UC. A lot of fluid intake can be lost due to constant episodes of diarrhea and loss of appetite.
Several of the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis can lead to weight loss. These symptoms include appetite changes, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Dehydration can also affect weight. A large part of the weight loss experienced is due to the lack of nutrients being absorbed.
Similar to dehydration, malnutrition can become a problem for UC sufferers. Often due to excessive nausea and diarrhea, malnutrition is a common symptom. It winds up being a cycle of issues as each symptom both affects and is affected by other symptoms. Nausea can lead to lack of appetite which can then reduce how much you eat. Diarrhea prevents adequate digestion and absorption of the nutrients from what you do manage to eat.
It seems as though there is a consistent relation between different symptoms of UC. This is also true when fatigue is a symptom. Appetite changes, diarrhea, and dehydration can reduce important nutrients the body needs for energy. Anemia, often a result of consistent bloody stools, can cause fatigue as well.
Lack of sleep due to problematic symptoms may also lead to fatigue. There is a cycle here as well. Your symptoms may prevent you from sleeping, either from falling asleep or constantly waking you up. At the same time, lack of sleep can make symptoms worse. Until symptom occurrence is regulated, it may be necessary to make adjustments to your sleep pattern such as taking naps or going to bed at a different time.
Unfortunately, ulcerative colitis does not have a cure. Due to this, treatments focus on symptom relief with the ultimate goal of symptom remission. Medications are available in a variety of formats from oral medications to injections. Corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, sulfa medications, and combination therapies may be effective options. Generally, your doctor will recommend the best treatments for the symptoms you experience. Many factors are considered in developing a treatment plan, including age, symptom severity, symptom frequency, and overall health.
In addition to medications, your doctor will likely recommend that you avoid things that can trigger or worse ulcerative colitis symptoms. You will need to learn which foods are problematic, including spicy foods and those that you know cause digestion issues. It will also be necessary to make lifestyle changes, including avoiding strenuous exercise during flare-ups and increasing water intake.
Symptom identification is important. You must be able to tell your doctor what you are experiencing so a treatment course can be provided. Additionally, you can use symptoms to track things that might cause symptoms to flare up or worsen, such as certain foods or activities. Combination treatments, which are different medications in conjunction with lifestyle changes, may often be more effective. Cases of ulcerative colitis with more severe or persistent symptoms generally respond better to these multi-modal treatment methods.