Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, or long-lasting, disease that causes inflammation and ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine. Dr. Jerman, can you tell us more about ulcerative colitis?
Definitely, Major Spencer. Ulcerative colitis belongs to a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD. This is a disease where the patient's immune system inappropriately attacks the colon, or large intestine, causing inflammation. The inflammation starts in the rectum, and can extend all the way to where the colon starts. It can get worse over time, especially if left untreated.
Patients with ulcerative colitis can develop other complications, both in the colon and in other parts of the body. Potential complications include:
- Toxic megacolon
- Colon cancer
- A liver condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis
- Sores in the mouth
- Rashes on the skin
- Red, painful eyes, and
- Joint pain and inflammation
Toxic megacolon is a severe disease flare that results in the colon becoming very dilated, or large and expanded, and dysfunctional. This is a medical emergency, and can be complicated by infection and perforation, or rupture, of the colon. This may lead to surgery to remove the colon.
Primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, is a disease of the liver where the immune system inappropriately attacks and damages the bile ducts. The bile ducts may even become blocked due to inflammation and scarring. This causes the bile to accumulate in the liver, which can eventually lead to liver failure.