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Dec
15

TUMMY TROUBLES: ULCERATIVE COLITIS

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Q. You mentioned that people with ulcerative colitis were more prone to cancer of the large bowel. What is this condition?

A. Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition of the large bowel, the colon and rectum. It is more common in women, especially in the 20-40 year age group. It is more common in western populations.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. There are recurring bouts of diarrhoea with blood and mucus, usually associated with cramping pains in the lower abdominal region. Often attacks come on causing severe symptoms and considerable ill health.

Q. How is it diagnosed and treated?

A. As with other disorders of the large bowel the doctor resorts to x-rays (in the form of a barium enema which gives a clear picture of the outline of the bowel), the sigmoidoscope and the colonoscope. This allows direct viewing of the bowel. The colonoscope, like the endoscope, is very versatile and may penetrate as far up the intestinal system as desired. The sigmoidoscope is mainly used for the lower bowel, it being shorter and less manoeuvrable. The examining physician gains an incredibly clear view of the bowel lining. Treatment is prescribed for the patient according to the degree of the disorder and symptoms. An adequate diet is prescribed, corticosteroid drugs given usually in the form of an enema, but also orally, and a drug called sulfasalazine is often beneficial. Diarrhoea is controlled by codeine, loperamide and other well known forms of medication. Surgery is used in some severe cases. As recurrences are common, sulfasalazine therapy long-term is often used. Persons with long standing ulcerative colitis (ten years and more) appear to run a higher than average risk of developing bowel cancer.

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