ULCERATIVE COLITIS - Illustration (Source: Shutterstock)
The chronic inflammatory ulcerative colitis usually begins in the rectum and progresses towards the small intestine. The inflammation is limited to the mucous membrane and submucosa, where it can lead to ulcers and abscesses. Women are affected slightly more affected than men. The reason of this disease is not precisely understood - genetic and immunological factors are being studied.
The typical diarrhea, which is characterized by bloody mucous, occurs up to 30 times a day and is accompanied by cramp-like pain. Severe inflammation is often accompanied by fever, loss of appetite, nausea and weight loss. Stress and fatigue can contribute significantly to a difficult progression of the disease and trigger active relapses. Deficiency symptoms can occur during relapses as well as in interaction with medication. Even if the inflammation in ulcerative colitis is always limited to the large intestine, in severe diarrhea many nutrients are not absorbed in the small intestine. Deficiencies can therefore be very pronounced.
The diagnosis will be confirmed by a complete colonoscopy with tissue removal and, if necessary, a colon contrast enema. The most dangerous complication in ulcerative colitis is a toxic megacolon, a massive expansion of the intestinal volume, which also damages the intestinal wall nerves. After many years of illness, there is an increased risk of degeneration leading to colon cancer. In severe cases and with complications such as the toxic megacolon surgery may be necessary. This usually means a complete removal of the colon.