In recent years, new light has been shed on the prevalence of gastrointestinal issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), gluten intolerance and Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to data from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), as many as 1.6 million Americans under age 30 suffer from either Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, leading to a lifelong struggle with frustrating symptoms and gastrointestinal damage that can eventually require surgery.
Ulcerative colitis is a disease of the colon (also known as the large intestine) that causes inflammation and the development of ulcers due to a malfunction of the body’s immune system (because of this, ulcerative colitis is classified as an auto-immune disease). Unlike Crohn’s disease, which can affect any portion of the GI system, ulcerative colitis is specific to tissues of the colon. As a result of the intestinal irritation and ulcerated tissue, around half of patients suffer with uncomfortable symptoms like abdominal cramps, persistent diarrhea and blood in the stool.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are also fairly unpredictable, coming and going at its own pace and often giving patients long periods of reprieve. Because of its intermittent nature, ulcerative colitis can be particularly frustrating for patients when an attack of symptoms strikes seemingly out of the blue.
Fortunately, there are a number of treatments available to help ulcerative colitis sufferers take control of their disease. If you suffer from ulcerative colitis—or suspect you may have it—an experienced gastroenterologist can help you not only diagnose your condition, but find the best long-term treatment plan for your lifestyle.