Colitis, also known as ulcerative colitis, is a chronic bowel disease characterized by inflammation. Your immune system responds to tissue injury in a way that brings about redness, pain, and swelling in your large intestine. As the innermost part of your colon becomes inflamed, sores called ulcers can form.
While a colitis diagnosis can be scary, it’s an important first step to feeling much better and enjoying a greater quality of life, so contact Firshein Center or request an appointment here on our website. Dr. Richard Firshein and his team take an integrative approach to helping you manage colitis.
If you or a loved one has colitis, it’s natural to have questions. Here are a few important facts about the disease.
Colitis affects people differently
Colitis symptoms can range from mild and occasional to frequent and severe, and no two people experience the condition in exactly the same way. You can develop some or all of the following symptoms, to varying degrees:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Rectal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
Age can also influence colitis symptoms. In kids, symptoms may be barely noticeable, making for a potentially serious situation. Unnoticed symptoms typically aren’t managed, which can lead to colitis interfering with normal childhood development.
Colitis varies from Crohn's disease and IBS
Colitis can be mistaken for Crohn’s disease — also an inflammatory bowel disease — and irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. These conditions may share certain symptoms, but they’re different in important ways. Proper diagnosis is important for ensuring effective treatment.
While colitis affects your large intestine, Crohn's disease can cause inflammation anywhere in your gastrointestinal tract. And although colitis tends to appear in an ongoing pattern, Crohn's disease can appear more sporadically. Colitis also has a lower relapse rate after remission compared to Crohn's disease, or about 30% versus 67%.
Unlike colitis, IBS isn’t a chronic disease. This muscle disorder affects contractions of the bowel and doesn’t involve intestinal inflammation. Some people assume they have IBS, when in fact they have an inflammatory bowel disease such as colitis. Avoid making assumptions when you experience symptoms. Seek a professional diagnosis and appropriate medical care.
Colitis is treatable
Colitis symptoms can be life-altering, but effective treatments are available to minimize discomfort and guard against flare-ups. The first treatment step typically involves medications that reduce inflammation, control infection, and minimize diarrhea or pain. You may also benefit from iron supplements if chronic intestinal bleeding has caused a deficiency.
The team at Firshein Center also focuses on nutrition and works with you to learn how certain nutrients and your gut biome interact with your body. Dietary changes can help reduce symptoms. Surgery to remove your colon and rectum is another treatment option. While intense and invasive, the procedure can often eliminate the condition completely.
If you have questions or concerns about ulcerative colitis symptoms or treatment, contact Firshein Center. We’re here to assist patients on the Upper East Side of New York City in any way we can.