Dr Lamah El-Sharkawi is a GP in Uplands and Mumbles Surgery and her sister Reem El-Sharkawi is a GP Pharmacist, both are part of the Bay Cluster Network
ULCERATIVE COLITIS AFFECTS 1 IN 420 PEOPLE LIVING IN BRITAIN, IT CAN DEVELOP AT ANY AGE BUT IS MOST OFTEN DIAGNOSED IN 15-25 YEAR OLDS, IT REMAINS A CONDITION WHICH MANY OFTEN DO NOT KNOW A LOT ABOUT.
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a condition that causes inflammation and ulceration of the large bowel (colon) and the rectum. Even though the inflammation usually begins in the rectum and lower colon it can affect the entire colon. Ulcerative colitis remains a chronic condition meaning it is ongoing and lifelong. Although with developing treatment, many patients have periods of good health, better known as remission, many often experience relapses or flare ups when symptoms are active.
UC has many different symptoms and can really vary between each individual. Some only experience mild symptoms while others experience more severe symptoms. Some people are lucky enough not to have too many flare ups while others experience symptoms more frequently. The most common symptoms include;
- Cramping pains
- General loss of appetite and unintentional weight loss
What causes ulcerative colitis?
Unfortunately, even though much research has gone into looking at causes of UC, we still do not really know. However, most recently, it has been suggested that UC is caused by the genes you are born with, plus an abnormal reaction in the digestive system to bacteria, plus a potential trigger including a virus, bacteria, stress or something in the environment.
We use certain medication to treat UC and vary it dependent on response. Sometimes surgery is indicated for some patients if they no longer respond to medication. Both medication and surgery can help keep symptoms at bay for longer.
Is there a cure for UC?
Unfortunately, to date there is no cure but there is still plenty of research going in to looking at the treatment of UC and hopefully a potential cure.
What are the challenges for people with the condition?
Living with UC can have both emotional and huge physical impact on patient lives. When patients experience flare ups, this can impact on both work and social occasions. We encourage patients to open up to those around them including family friends and work colleagues so that they can receive the support and encouragement from those closest to them.
UC patients are looked after by specialist teams of health care professionals in the hospital and their GPs.
If you have any concerns about any of the issues raised, please do not hesitate to contact your GP for further information.
Ulcerative colitis is one of two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease and next month we will discuss the other main condition known as Crohn’s disease.