Blood in stools is a common symptom. Many of the individuals face it once in a while. But if it is a recurrent symptom, Ulcerative colitis is a disease that needs to be ruled out. Intestine is divided into two main parts- small and large. Large intestine is the last one metre of the intestine which helps not only in forming stools but also storing it till the time we evacuate during our routine defecation.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
It is a type of disease where the last part of our intestine gets damaged by our own immune cells and is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease or in common terms, IBD. The other types of IBD are Crohn’s Disease and Microscopic Colitis. In ulcerative colitis, the lining of the large intestine gets damaged and ulcerated. Once it gets ulcerated it starts oozing blood.
Who is likely to have it?
Ulcerative colitis is common among young individuals of both the sexes, though, no age is protected from it. The exact cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but now we know that these factors may aggravate but don’t cause ulcerative colitis. One possible cause is an immune system malfunction. When your immune system tries to fight off an invading virus or bacterium, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too.The role of heredity is controversial.
What are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?
The symptoms of disease vary according to the severity. However, the most common symptoms are diarrhoea, increased frequency of stools, blood in stools, urgency to defecate, rectal pain, inability to defecate in spite of an urge and pain and occasional incontinence. If the disease becomes severe, it can come with weight loss, swelling of legs, fatigue, breathlessness, fever and failure to gain height in children. Blood in stools is the hallmark symptom but diarrhoea is not a must.
What are the Complications if Left Untreated?
If it is not treated the person keeps on losing blood and becomes anaemic. He may even develop severe diarrhoea and complications of diarrhoea. If the disease is not controlled, it may cause obstruction of the bowel in long term and even cancers can occur. It can cause involvement of other body organs. Person can have joint pain, liver disease, bone disease, skin disease, oral ulcers and even increased risks of clots in the body.
When to see your Doctor?
Everyone who has persistent blood loss in stools, awakening at night for passing stools, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps or fever should get themselves checked. The doctor would evaluate by few simple blood tests, stool tests, x-ray and an endoscopic examination. A small biopsy needs to be taken from the intestine via endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the Treatment for the disease?
The treatment of this disease is usually life-long. There are drugs available to keep the disease in check. Few patients may even require steroids and injectables. As a last resort person might have to get the affected large bowel removed. There is no specific dietary guidelines but certain foods and beverages can aggravate symptoms, especially during a flare-up. During the flare up of disease they are advised to restrict dairy products, fibre rich foods and are advised to take small frequent meals with plenty of fluids.
Do not neglect your blood in stools because piles is not the only cause. The greater the delay in diagnosis and beginning of treatment, more is the chance for complications and need for surgery.