Ulcerative Colitis: Patient Concerns and Questions

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Is Ulcerative Colitis Genetic?

Ulcerative colitis has a genetic component, but it depends on a lot more than just genes. Although 85 to 90 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis do not have a relative with colitis or Crohn’s disease, a related illness, 10 to 15 percent do. In addition, some populations do have a higher likelihood of developing ulcerative colitis, such as Jews of Eastern European descent. Although this data suggests that colitis has some genetic basis, research also suggests that immunological problems may cause ulcerative colitis as well.

Can It Cause Colon Cancer?

Colitis has been linked with colon cancer, with about 5 percent of colitis patients eventually suffering from cancer. The risk of developing cancer depends on the damage done to the colon, when the ulcer symptoms first displayed themselves, whether there is a family history of colon cancer and how long the person has had colitis. For example, if the person’s lower colon and rectum is damaged, the risk of developing colon cancer is still low. If the person’s entire colon is damaged, the risk of developing colon cancer jumps dramatically to 32 times the normal rate. Patients who developed colitis during childhood or who have had it for over a decade are at higher risk as well.

If you are at a high risk for developing colon cancer, your doctor will probably check for dysplasia, or changes in the cells lining the colon. They will need to do a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to examine the tissue in the colon’s lining. Be sure to express you ulcerative colitis patient concerns to your pysician, particularly the long-term risks.

Will I Need Hospitalizion or Surgery?

Many people with ulcerative colitis never need to be hospitalized or operated on. Some people, however, may experience severe colitis attacks, which require hospitalization and intravenous treatment. These attacks usually include severe bleeding or dehydration due to extreme diarrhea. At times, a person who experiences these severe attacks may require surgery to remove part of the colon.

Will My Child’s Growth Be Affected?

Children with ulcerative colitis are at risk of growth impairment. Because eating often aggravates colitis symptoms, children with colitis may avoid eating as much as possible. They also may avoid dairy foods, which contain calcium and vitamin D. Making sure that your child eats a well-balanced diet can go a long way towards avoiding this problem.

What Other Complications Should I Look Out For?

Complications of ulcerative colitis include problems with the liver, skin, eyes, bile ducts, or joints. Your doctor should check for these problems and be on the lookout for symptoms.

What Should I Eat?

Although you cannot injure the colon with foods, you may find that certain foods trigger a colitis attack. Examples of particularly problematic foods include dairy products, raw fruits and vegetables, and gas-producing foods. You may need to take a multi-vitamin to make up for nutrients lost due to avoiding your trigger foods, but you should try as much as possible to eat a well-balanced diet.