Managing Your Ulcerative Colitis

Your doctor has diagnosed you with a type of irritable bowel disease called ulcerative colitis. Little is known about how this disease starts, but there are several factors that can make it tolerable so you can have a normal, active life. Here are some of the ways that you can manage your ulcerative colitis and the options you have for treating it.

Reducing the Triggers

The main discomfort you'll have with colitis is abdominal pain and diarrhea. There are a number of factors that can trigger a painful attack. When you identify the triggers, you can limit or avoid them to prevent the discomfort. Some of the ways an ulcerative colitis episode can be triggered include:

  • eating spicy or fatty foods
  • drinking alcohol
  • smoking
  • experiencing stress

Everybody reacts differently to these factors. One person can frequently eat very spicy food without having a problem while other people will have a painful reaction to something mildly spicy. You and your doctor will look at your lifestyle to pinpoint the behaviors most likely to trigger a painful response in you.

Ongoing Monitoring

Your doctor will want to monitor your colitis for signs of it changing and becoming worse. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation of the intestinal wall which can lead to the development of tiny protrusions of tissues, called polyps. These are often benign, but they can become malignant, forming cancer cells that can spread in the intestine and, eventually, throughout the entire body.

Colonoscopies are used to watch for polyps and any changes in the intestinal tissue. While doing a colonoscopy, your doctor can take tissue samples of suspicious polyps to determine if they will cause you a problem. Blood and stool samples are also tested to look for any changes in your condition.

Treating Your Colitis

The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, so the treatment is focused on the symptoms. Some of the treatment options you doctor will offer include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication - This reduces the swelling of the intestinal lining during a flare up of colitis.
  • Anti-diarrhea medication - This reduces the irritation in the intestine during an attack which causes diarrhea.
  • Antibiotics - This prevents an infection in the intestine from getting worse due to the irritation by the colitis.

When the colitis becomes persistent and so severe as to affect your daily life, your doctor will offer one or more of these surgical options:

  • Tissue removal - When the colitis is restricted to a small portion of the intestinal wall, some of that tissue can be removed to reduce the inflammation during a colitis flare up.
  • Polyp removal - If your doctor suspects that one or more polyps that have developed in your intestine are cancerous, the polyps and some of the surrounding tissue is removed.
  • Intestinal resection - In severe cases where there is major damage to the intestine due to the colitis, an entire length of the intestine can be removed.

Understanding the triggers of your colitis lets you prevent control flare ups. With treatment and regular monitoring, this irritable bowel disease doesn't have to disrupt your life.