Ulcerative Colitis: Facts from a Survivor

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Attention: This article is written by a patient who has had ulcerative colitis since she was 17, had her colon removed. She is not a medical professional. Any advice or counsel should be taken by a medical professional, ideally from a gastroenterologist. She is open about her experience if you would like to contact the author feel free to contact her. Another great resource is CCFA.org, which is Crohn's Colitis Foundation of America.

How Many People Does Ulcerative Colitis Effect

Ulcerative colitis may affect as many as seven-hundred-thousand Americans. It is one of two inflammatory bowel diseases, the other being Crohn's disease. Crohn's affects your whole intestinal tract whereas ulcerative colitis only affects your colon. It is believed both diseases are caused by an overactive immune system. What that means is that when your body detects normal matter as a foreign object in the colon, in a healthy system, the body will fend off the foreign object, but in someone with an overactive immune system, it fights it off more aggressively than necessary, resulting in inflammation and ulcerations.

Ulcerative colitis acts differently in every patient. Most will be able to control it without medication, although some will adjust their diet, take medications, and never be able to control it, until they finally have to have their colon removed. Theoretically, by removing your colon, you are being cured of the disease. This does not mean that someone who has had their colon removed will be as they were prior to being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. Having an entire organ removed does have long-term affects, such as loose stool, easily dehydrated, frequent bowel movements, among others.

What Portion of Your Colon Does Ulcerative Colitis Effect

Ulcerative colitis affects your colon and only the innermost layer of the intestine, unlike Crohn's which may affect your entire digestive system from your mouth to rectum and affect multiple layers of the intestine. How much and where your colon is affected, may determine how severe the disease is. If only the left side is involved, then you have distal/limited colitis. This is generally the most easily treatable and can be treated with steroid enemas, as well as, certain medications.

One of the trademarks of ulcerative colitis is that the inflammation starts from the rectum and moves inward. Since your colon extends to your left side and wraps upward then descends down your right side, almost everyone who has ulcerative colitis will have ulcerations on their left side.

If the inflammation extends upward about halfway through your colon, this is referred to as ulcerative prostates, which means that the bottom half of the colon is inflamed. The most severe is when the ulcerative colitis affects the entire colon. This is called pancolitis.

Regardless of how much of your colon is affected, a patient can usually get control over the disease through medication, diet, and exercise.

It is very important to keep in touch with your doctor, as well as FOLLOW his directions and prescriptions.

Diseased Colon Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The pinkish color is portions of healthy colon, while the red ulceration is the ulcerative colitis. This is a photo of a colon that has been removed, due to ulcerative colitis. The entire colon is diseased, hence the dark red color, a healthy colon would be pink like the sides of your cheeks.
The pinkish color is portions of healthy colon, while the red ulceration is the ulcerative colitis.
The pinkish color is portions of healthy colon, while the red ulceration is the ulcerative colitis. | Source
This is a photo of a colon that has been removed, due to ulcerative colitis. The entire colon is diseased, hence the dark red color, a healthy colon would be pink like the sides of your cheeks.
This is a photo of a colon that has been removed, due to ulcerative colitis. The entire colon is diseased, hence the dark red color, a healthy colon would be pink like the sides of your cheeks. | Source

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Most basic symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

  • Persistent or recurrent diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Fever
  • Sense of urgency

The most defining symptom being a bloody stool along with abdominal pain. Most people will start showing symptoms by having diarrhea, as well as a severe urgency when they have to use the restroom. This can often cause ulcerative colitis to become confused with irritable bowel syndrome. For this reason, many people are first diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (ibs) before being diagnosed correctly.

There are other non-digestive symptoms that sometimes appear including:

  • eye problems
  • skin lesions
  • joint pain
  • in children slow growth

Although nausea is typically a Crohn's symptom, in more severe cases, nausea can play a huge role in ulcerative colitis. In my last year with the disease, before my emergency surgery, nausea was probably the worst part of the disease.

I was told the reason I was throwing up was because my colon was so inflamed it was pressing against my stomach. So whenever my stomach had food in it, there was too much pressure on it to digest properly.

The bottom line is that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to be seen by a doctor so they can do testing, to eliminate the possibility of the disease. If you do find that you have ulcerative colitis, do not be fearful. Remember you are not alone, there are many great online groups, and your hospital may also have a group as well you can join. One great group I have found is j-pouch.org.

© 2010 Angela Michelle

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Comments 4 comments

angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

Wow, that is so awesome! IO have some children's books, that I have not yet published. Do you also do illustrations, or just the writing piece?


BEAUTYBABE profile image

BEAUTYBABE 5 years ago from QUEENSLAND AUSTRALIA.

Angela Hi,

Just thought I would drop by and see how life is going for you. I know from our last talk a while ago that you had ulcerative colitis just as bad as me. Unfortunately, mine has returned in a small fragment that was left behind. The colorectal surgeon is not too happy about more surgery as he says I have a "hostile abdomen". In other words he thinks I could die from havig surgery.

My MSA is getting worse but I am doing as you do and living my life without letting it destroy my life completely.

I have been with hubpages about seventeen months now and I got a wonderful start with this place and have met a lot of wonderful people. I have found that I have a talent that I never knew about. I have discovered that I am a writer. Not only have I written at least eighty poems, I have just completed my second children's story book.

The first one is called "The Enchanted Garden", which is to be released around Easter time. The second one which is called "The Little Pig that Ran Away To Save His Bacon".

It still seems like a dream to me. Anyway, I hope all is well. Keep in touch, I'd love to hear from you. Beautybabe Pam xxx


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Many people experience different levels of severity. During it's most mild condition, it's more of an irritant in life, than a horribleness. But yes, it can be so severe that you lose all aspect of life.

That being said, I am a firm believer that it's our perspective on life that matters more than our circumstance. I've always been happy despite the disease. Through my years of encountering people with the disease and helping people, I have found many who have become bitter. It's sad, because there is no reason to become bitter about life. Become bitter about the disease, yes, but life, life is so much more than the disease, even during it's most severe forms. Trust me, I know.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

It sounds like a completely horrible disease, and honestly I had not heard of it before. I'd heard the name but didn't know what it was, nor Crohns for that matter. Informative and interesting—though I'm dismayed to learn of your circumstances.

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