Ulcerative Colitis Help, Advice & Remedy Ideas from UCer

Ulcerative Colitis

There are plenty of websites that explain what Ulcerative Colitis is, but there are always newly diagnosed sufferers trying to find out about it, so if you're new to colitis you should find some useful information here (I've tried to keep explanations simple). However, even experienced Ulcerative Colitis sufferers can find aspects of Colitis confusing, and may find some useful info here as well.

Colitis

It's slightly confusing (and probably not that important), but Colitis is actually a term that refers to an inflammation of the large intestine and therefore, before diagnosis the word can be used to describe a few types of inflammation.

Throughout my website I'm using the term 'Colitis' to describe Ulcerative Colitis, because that's what I've been diagnosed with. It's also the most common form of Colitis along with Crohn's Disease. However, there are quite a few types of Colitis:

  • Automimmune
    • Crohn's Disease
    • Ulcerative colitis
  • Diversion colitis
  • Diverticulitis (segmental colitis)
  • Infectious colitis (c diff)
  • Ischemic colitis
  • Chemical colitis
  • Microscopic colitis
    • Collagenous colitis
    • Lymphocytic colitis
  • Non Specific colitis

Types of colitis are normally grouped together by their 'cause' e.g. Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's both go under the heading 'Autoimmune'.

Ulcerative Colitis

What is it?

Ulcerative Colitis is an autoimmune disease of the large colon (part of the large intestine) - it is NOT contagious.

Autoimmune means that the body or a particular part of the body (in this case part of the wall inside the large intestine) is fighting against itself, that is: the immune system detects something in the large intestine that it believes is a threat and fights it. It's this response by the immune system that causes inflammation and the symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis.

When Ulcerative Colitis is active it is said to be in a 'Flare-up', when there are no symptoms it is said to be in 'Remission'. The word 'remission' is used instead of 'cured' because colitis is referred to as a 'chronic' condition, that is; the symptoms can remain or reoccur over a long period of time (years).

Being aware of which area of your body is causing symptoms is important and I'm always suprised when a UCer doesn't know where the large intestine is. Knowing where it is can be useful for working out which type of ulcerative colitis you have, explaining symptoms to specialists and also working out if and where along the large intestine treatments are working.

The very name Ulcerative Colitis reveals one of the main aspects of the disease - ulceration (also referred to as inflammation) of the large intestine. Again, it's the ulceration that causes some of the symptoms of colitis although rather annoyingly, a UCer's large intestine can appear to be completely clear of ulceration, but they can still experience symptoms!

Ulcerative Colitis - What is it?

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

There are a few different types of Ulcerative Colitis; the symptoms are mostly the same, the different types actually refer to the area of the large intestine that's affected. The most accurate way to determine which area is inflamed is by Colonoscopy.

Distal Ulcerative Colitis

Distal Colitis; 'distal' means furthest from the point of origin, therefore it means the areas furthest away from the start of the large colon. Distal colitis includes types of colitis that are confined to the left side of the large colon. 'Left side' means from the point of view of the colitis sufferer.

  • Left-sided colitis: located in the Descending colon which runs down the patient's left side, from the end of the Transverse colon to the Sigmoid Colon.
  • Proctosigmoiditis: located in the rectosigmoid colon (normally called the Sigmoid colon), the portion of the colon adjacent to the rectum.
  • Proctitis: limited to the rectum
Distal Colitis - Left Sided, Proctosigmoiditis, Proctitis

Extensive Ulcerative Colitis

Extensive Colitis; types of colitis that go beyond the left side of the large colon but can also include it.

  • Pancolitis: the entire large colon
Extensive Colitis - Pancolitis

Crohn's Disease

Ulcerative Colitis is often confused with Crohns disease and in fact, the symptoms, medications and treatments often crossover with each other. However, the easiest way to remember the difference is that Ulcerative Colitis affects the large colon only, where as Crohns can affect the entire digestive system; from the mouth through the esophagus, stomach, small intestines and the large colon.

Crohns can also affect deeper tissues of the GI tract - Ulcerative Colitis only affects the top layer (Epithelium).

Crohn's Colitis

As if it isn't already confusing enough, there's a crossover called Crohn's Colitis. This is actually a form of Crohn's disease that's only located in the large colon.

The reason it's part of Crohn's disease is because the inflammation is in different areas of the colon (Colitis is continuous) and may affect the deeper layers of the colon (Ulcerative Colitis only affects the top layer) The similarities between the 2 sets of symptoms can sometimes lead to a misdiagnosis of 'ulcerative colitis' at first.

Non-Specific Colitis

Interestingly, at present it's possible to be diagnosed with Non-Specific Colitis, where so many symptoms crossover with different types of Colitis that it's not possible to give a definitive diagnosis. If the disease progresses, it can become possible to give a more precise diagnosis to the sufferer.

Non-specific Colitis is slightly contentious, and in the medical profession there are calls for it to be discontinued - something that could happen with the advance of medical technology and techniques for diagnosing symptoms.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Ulcerative Colitis is sometimes confusingly referred to as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD. Actually IBD is a general term used for diseases of the bowel, so it can include Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

You may also hear people mistakenly calling Colitis Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, again IBS is a general term for a number of symptoms that occur along the bowel.

The treatment and advice for IBS is different from IBD although; it's true to say that because the symptoms of IBS and IBD can be similar, a diagnosis of IBD can eventually result from a period of IBS. I think of IBS as the name a Doctor will give symptoms along the colon if they aren't sure what's causing it......and just in case you're concerned, IBS doesn't necessarily lead on to IBD.