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2MINUTES ON... Ulcerative colitis.

Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD Helping to keep you fit and healthy

What is it?

Ulcerative colitis is chronic recurring ulceration of the rectum and colon. It can be very painful and distressing.

This condition affects one in 1,000 people, sometimes runs in families and is more common in non-smokers and ex-smokers.

What's the cause?

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. However, there's some evidence that genetic factors are involved, since about one in 10 people with ulcerative colitis has a close relative with the disease. It's thought that ulcerative colitis can be due to a disturbance in the immune system.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are often episodic, with months or years in which there are few or no symptoms. In a mild episode, symptoms develop gradually, often over a few days, and include the following: diarrhoea, sometimes with blood and mucus in the stool, abdominal pain, fatigue, loss of appetite.

In a severe attack, the symptoms may begin suddenly, developing over just a few hours. Symptoms in a bad attack include: severe bouts of diarrhoea, at least six times a day, passage of blood and mucus with or without faeces, pain and swelling in the abdomen, fever, weight loss.

People with ulcerative colitis often have other disorders including arthritis, causing pain in the joints, and ankylosing spondylitis, causing pain in the spine, inflammation of the eye (uveitis), and the skin condition erythema nodosum.

What's the treatment?

Your doctor may prescribe the antiinflammatory drug sulfasalazine to prevent attacks of ulcerative colitis or treat mild episodes.

Alternatively, you may be given mesalamine, which has fewer side effects. If the inflammation is confined to the rectum or lower part of the colon, your doctor may prescribe aminosalicylate drugs for you to self-administer in the form of an enema or suppositories. If the attacks are severe and frequent, surgery may be necessary.
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2014
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