What Is UC?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a long-term condition that affects the colon, the exact cause of which remains in question unknown. It is thought to be an autoimmune condition where the body mistakes friendly bacteria for harmful bacteria in the colon. A common theory is that the immune system responds to these bacteria by causing inflammation and swelling of the colon, to prevent what it believes is an infection. The patient may also experience painful sores that can bleed and produce pus.
What Are The Symptoms?
People living with UC can experience long periods where they experience little or no
symptoms. When a flare up does occur, common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhoea with mucus or pus
- A high temperature
- A constant need to empty the bowls or otherwise known as ‘tenesmus’.
This type of inflammatory bowel disease cannot be cured, however the symptoms can be
alleviated during a flare up. Severe flare-ups however, can require medical attention. They
are classed as severe when six or more bloody stools are passed a day, or the patient has a fever, rapid heartbeat or anaemia.
How Is UC Treated
As UC cannot be cured, the symptoms of the flare-ups will be treated. If the symptoms
are mild, then no treatment is required as mild UC usually clears up after a few days.
On the other hand if the UC is more severe, then anti-inflammatory medication called
aminosalicytes can be prescribed. If these fail to alleviate the symptoms then stronger anti-
inflammatory drugs called corticosteroids are prescribed.
Once symptoms are under control then patients may be advised to regularly take
aminosalicytes, a group of medicines used to treat . Doing so is called maintenance therapy, and can prevent further flare-ups from occurring.
Living With UC
As footballer Darren Fletcher knows, living with UC can be difficult. Despite having no cure,
there are some tips that people with this condition should follow:
- Keep stress to a minimum
- Eat small meals more often
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Ask your GP about possible food supplements, as you may not be absorbing enough vitamins and minerals.
Published January 2013
Review Scheduled January 2014