Ulcerative Colitis: Do We Know the Cause?

Ulcerative Colitis.  The Cause?

Ulcerative Colitis. Do We know The Cause?Ulcerative colitis (U.C.) is a member of a group of diseases of the family known as inflammatory bowel disease.  Other members of this family include Crohn’s disease, collagenous colitis, lymphocytic colitis, ischemic colitis, diversion colitis, Behcet’s colitis and indeterminate colitis (does not show clear evidence of being either Crohn’s or U.C.).  No matter the diagnosis, this family of diseases causes untold numbers of symptoms, ranging from annoying to life threatening.

Finding a cure would be ideal.  However, to date, the cure has remained elusive.  The solution has been attacked from many angles.  Currently, the most fruitful avenue of attack has been from the standpoint of etiology, or cause.

What Are The Symptoms?

Symptoms seen most commonly by a colon and rectal surgeon, also known as a proctologist are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Mucus in the stool.
  • Extra intestinal symptoms such as arthritis, eye problems, biliary problems (inflammation of the ducts carrying bile).
  • Skin disease (pyoderma gangrenosum)

What Is The Extent And Severity?

Ulcerative Colitis can be mild, moderate, severe or life threatening (fulminant).  Each of these grades presents with an increasingly worsening sets of symptoms.  The disease may be confined to only the end of the colon (proctosigmoiditis), may involve only the left side of the colon, or may involve the entire colon.  Occasionally, it may involve the end of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon (“back wash ileitis”).  Obviously, treatment is different for each.

What Do We Know About The Causes?

There are many theories about the origin of U.C., and each theory has led to the development of different medications to treat or attempt to cure the illness.  The most well studied of theses causes are:

  • Genetic causes.  Studies have shown abnormalities in 12 different areas of our genes.  The understanding of other autoimmune diseases with similar genetic findings seems to support genetic disorders as a cause of U.C.
  • Dietary causes.  Diet may play a role in initiating U.C, or at least exacerbating it (making it worse) once it has begun.  As the colon is exposed to many potential toxins from food, the dietary link sees like a logical one.  Saturated fats, Vitamin B6 and sugars have all been linked to the development of disease.  None has been proven to be causative.
  • Autoimmune Causes.  Certain cells of the immune system, the T cells, are regularly found in the colons of those with U.C.  The finding is a microscopic one.  It is thought that somehow the body’s own defense system turns on itself.

Treatment (Based On Causes).

Given the noted possible causes, treatment has centered around the causes.  Steroids and aspirin-based medications are potent anti-inflammatory medications.  While they do not cure ulcerative colitis, they certainly can blunt the symptoms and put the disease into remission.  Next biologic agents, based on TNF inhibitors (tumor necrosis factor),  are thought to destroy the agents responsible for causing the disease.  Finally, immunomodulators and chemotherapeutic drugs also play a role in the treatment.  There are many experimental agents in different stages of evaluation.  When all medications have failed, surgical intervention is needed.  This is the point at which the colon and rectal surgeon can be of most help.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates.

The physicians of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates have many years of experience in treating Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and indeed, all disease of the colon, rectum and anus.  The first step is a consultation, whereby you will be able to ask questions in order to fully understand your treatment plan.  By calling (310)273-2310, you will take a powerful step toward the restoration of your health.  Education is a powerful healer.