Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The disease usually occurs for the first time between the ages of 20 and 40 and then recurs in relapses. Simplified, ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, which leads to the formation of ulcers. During a relapse, those affected suffer from severe symptoms that can strongly influence their everyday lives. The causes of this intestinal disease have not yet been conclusively clarified. However, there are theories and fortunately effective therapies.
Ulcerative colitis: a definition
The intestinal disease ulcerative colitis is characterised by the following properties, among others:
- The inflammation usually only affects the large intestine.
- The inflamed area in the intestine is continuous.
- The inflammation affects the upper intestinal layer.
This clearly distinguishes ulcerative colitis from the most common intestinal disease Crohn’s disease. Other parts of the digestive system may also be affected by the inflammation. In Crohn’s disease the inflammation is not distributed on a continuous surface and also affects deeper layers under the intestinal mucosa.
How does ulcerative colitis manifest itself?
Since ulcerative colitis is a disease that occurs in relapses, some patients can live without any symptoms. However, if there is a relapse, it can manifest itself through many different symptoms. These can include:
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Diarrhea, often with blood
- Joint pain
- Skin or eye problems
- Weight loss
Of course, all these complaints can also point to other diseases. Therefore, patients must always find out together with a physician whether ulcerative colitis is actually involved.
What triggers are there for ulcerative colitis?
The reasons why someone suffers from ulcerative colitis have not yet been exhaustively researched. It is considered certain that in a patient with ulcerative colitis the immune system cannot distinguish between good and bad organisms in the intestine. It reacts by producing a constant inflammation. This misinterpretation could be caused by a genetic defect, environmental influences or microbiological factors.
For a more detailed explanation: A genetic defect could, for example, be a trigger for certain bacteria in the intestine to be attacked and the intestinal wall less protected. Environmental influences such as nutrition and other living conditions are less significant during the development, but may have an effect on the course of chronic intestinal diseases. Thus it is quite striking that diseases such as ulcerative colitis occur more frequently in an industrialised environment. Therefore, certain components of a typical lifestyle in the modern world could favour the development of intestinal inflammations.
Another related observation is that patients with ulcerative colitis have an unbalanced microbiome. This means that there are more harmful than helpful microorganisms in the intestinal flora. This unfavourable change in the microbiome, also known as microbial dysbiosis, could also be a reason for permanent intestinal inflammation. It manifests itself by the fact that certain intestinal bacteria occur more frequently, while others are completely absent or only present to a very small extent.
A first step to find out if you suffer from ulcerative colitis may be to have your intestinal flora examined. With the INTEST.pro form BIOMES you can easily learn more about the composition of your microbiome. You will even get tips on what you can do for the health of your intestines. Of course, the test cannot replace a correct diagnosis for certain diseases by a doctor, but it can tell you a lot about the conditions in your intestine.
What follows a suspicion of ulcerative colitis?
First of all, of course, a medical diagnosis must be made. This can consist of a blood or stool test. Or the intestine is examined with the help of a camera. Once ulcerative colitis has been diagnosed, there are various treatment methods. These can include, for example, medicines , but also a change in lifestyle. Promising success has also been achieved with the use of probiotic bacterial cultures . Decisive for the therapy is how strongly the intestinal mucosa is affected and which parts of the intestine are affected, as well as the patient’s level of suffering. Not all ulcerative colitis has the same course – this is taken into account when selecting treatment options.