Ulcerative Colitis. Similar to Crohn’s but Different.
If you live in a large city such as Los Angeles or Beverly Hills, you undoubtedly are aware of a family of diseases called Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Prominent in this family are two illnesses; Ulcerative colitis (U.C.) and Crohn’s disease. They share certain similarities such as symptoms, diagnostic evaluations, and responses to medications. Although both can be treated through surgical intervention, ulcerative colitis is curable, whereas Crohn’s disease usually only goes into remission. It is rarely completely cured. Always lurking in the background is the fear of recurrences.
A proctologist, also known as a colon and rectal surgeon or coloproctologist, can make a diagnosis of U.C. by taking a history, looking inside of the colon and performing certain blood tests.
Similarities. The Cause. The Symptoms.
Both diseases are thought to be autoimmune disorders whereby the body’s immune system attacks itself. Both diseases can go into a sustained remission, only to experience flare ups. Both are initially treated medically. However, only U.C. is “curable”. However the cure is a radical operative procedure.
Symptoms of U.C. are predominantly those of altered bowel habits, with diarrhea, sometimes accompanied by blood and mucus. Occasionally arthritis may be included in the list of symptoms. Symptoms outside of the gastrointestinal tract include:
- Mouth ulcers
- Eye disorders
- Musculoskeletal and skin conditions
- Disease affecting the bile ducts.
- Rarely, U.C. can progress to colon cancer. Colonoscopy screenings with biopsies at regular intervals are vitally important to note any early changes in the colon lining./li>
Management of ulcerative colitis is similar to the management of Crohn’s disease, and includes:
- Steroids, which are anti-inflammatory
- Aspirin related medications.
- Immunosuppressant medications, such as azathiprine
- Biological medications
When all else fails, when symtoms are debilitating and cannot be controlled, when other parts of the body are affected, an operation or several operations may be needed. The operations are either performed as an emergency or on an elective basis at hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The operation involves removing all or part of the colon and rectum, with the goal of restoring patients to good health. There are variations on the surgical theme, but a common approach, performed in 2 or 3 steps, is to remove the colon and rectum and create a temporary ileostomy (a temporary bag on the side of the abdominal wall to collect the small intestine liquid.) This alone may relieve the patients of the major symptoms.
Following this, the small intestine may be reconnected to the remainder of the rectum by fashioning an ileo-pouch anal anastomosis (IPAA), whereupon the pouch functions much like a normal rectum, storing stool until the time of voluntary discharge. After all is healed, the ileostomy may be closed.
Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are major sources of problems. At Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates, board certified surgeons with many years of experience are available to evaluate you, answer your questions in a quiet and confidential way, and help you through a difficult problem. Appointments can be made at (310)273-2310, and many forms are available on the secure website.