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How Does Ulcerative Colitis Affect The Digestive System

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Complications Outside The Intestine

Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Diverticulitis – Medical-Surgical – Gastrointestinal System


Ulcerative colitis, and the corticosteroid and immune-suppressing drugs used to treat it, can cause osteopenia and osteoporosis . Osteoporosis is more common with Crohn disease than with ulcerative colitis.

Liver and Gallbladder Disorders

In severe cases, IBD can cause problems with the liver and pancreas and increase the risk for gallstones. In addition, patients with IBD are at increased risk of developing primary sclerosing cholangitis. This is a disease of the bile ducts in the liver that eventually leads to liver failure and the need for liver transplantation.


People with inflammatory bowel disease are at higher risk for blood clots, especially deep venous thrombosis where blood clots form in the legs. They are also at risk for pulmonary embolism, when a blood clot travels from the legs to the lungs.

Urinary Tract and Kidney Disorders

IBD may increase the risk for urinary tract and bladder infections. People with IBD have an increased risk for kidney stones.

Delayed Growth and Development in Children

Children with ulcerative colitis are at slightly higher than average risk for delayed growth, but their risk is lower than with Crohn disease.

Emotional Factors

Can Uc Medications Cause Eye Problems

Yes. Some eye complications can be caused by drugs youâre taking for UC.

If your UC doctor or your eye doctor thinks this is happening, they can work together to fine-tune your treatment if needed, Ali says. For instance, they might decide to change the dose of your drug or switch you to a different one.

Some eye problems linked to UC drugs are:

Cataracts and glaucoma. Steroids can cause either of these common conditions, Ali says.

A cataract makes your eyeâs natural lens cloudy. It can make things look blurry, hazy, or less colorful. If it bothers you a lot, you can get it removed with surgery.

Glaucoma is a disease that, without treatment, can damage your optic nerve, which allows you to see. There are different types of it, but any of them could bring on symptoms like eye pain or pressure, headaches, and worse vision, including blind spots. Some treatments that can slow the permanent vision loss it causes are medication, laser procedures, and surgery.

Retinopathies. These are diseases that damage the part of your eye that senses light . Theyâre rarely linked to IBD. But they can happen due to certain biologic drugs that treat IBD, Ali says.

If youâre diagnosed with retinopathy, your eye doctor has treatments that can lower your chances for losing your sight.

How Is Diagnosis The Same And Different

If you think you have either UC or diverticulitis, talk to your doctor about it. You might be referred to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in digestive issues, for a correct diagnosis.

Your doctor will first do a detailed medical exam. Theyâll ask you about your medical history including things like your diet, your bowel movements, and medications you might be taking.

Common tests to diagnose UC and diverticulitis include:

  • Blood tests. This is done to check for infections
  • Stool sample test. This checks for bacteria or parasites that might cause your stomach pain, cramps, or diarrhea
  • Colonoscopy. The doctor will use a thin, flexible tube with a camera on the tip to explore your entire colon. They may take small tissue samples to test.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy. This is similar to a colonoscopy, except your doctor will only explore your rectum and s-shaped sigmoid colon â both of which are located at the lower end of your colon. This is usually done if you have severe inflammation.
  • Barium enema. This test is also called lower gastrointestinal tract radiography. In this test, your doctor injects a liquid containing barium into your butt. The barium coats your entire colon and makes it easier to see clearly under an X-ray scan.
  • CT scan. This test allows your doctor to scan your abdomen and pelvic area and spot inflamed areas in your colon. The scan can detect the irritated or inflamed pouches for diverticulitis and confirm the condition.

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How Uc Affects The Entire Body

Medically reviewed by Matthew J. Hamilton, MD

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, that causes chronic inflammation in the large intestine. This can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms ranging from abdominal pain and cramping to frequent bowel movements.

However, inflammation and associated symptoms can go beyond your gutits estimated that up to 40 percent of people with IBD experience one or more non-GI symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis can be more systemic in the way it affects the body, explains David T. Rubin, MD, professor of medicine and chief of gastroenterology at the University of Chicago, and chair-elect of the national scientific advisory committee for the Crohns and Colitis Foundation. Meaning, ulcerative colitis can affect the entire body. Find out what you should watch for, plus ways to take control of your health.

Differences Between Ulcerative Colitis And Crohns Disease


The differences between ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease are:

  • Ulcerative colitis is limited to the colon while Crohns disease can occur anywhere between the mouth and the anus
  • In Crohns disease, there are healthy parts of the intestine mixed in between inflamed areas. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, is continuous inflammation of the colon
  • Ulcerative colitis only affects the inner most lining of the colon while Crohns disease can occur in all the layers of the bowel walls

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Diagnosis Of Ulcerative Colitis

X-rays of the abdomen taken after barium is given by enema do not require any special preparation . These x-rays usually can show a blockage or paralysis… read more ) may indicate the severity and extent of the disease but are not done when the disease is active, such as during a flare-up, because of the risk of causing a perforation. Other x-rays of the abdomen may also be taken.

What Triggers Are There For Ulcerative Colitis

The reasons why someone suffers from ulcerative colitis have not yet been exhaustively researched. It is considered certain that in a patient with ulcerative colitis the immune system cannot distinguish between good and bad organisms in the intestine. It reacts by producing a constant inflammation. This misinterpretation could be caused by a genetic defect, environmental influences or microbiological factors.

For a more detailed explanation: A genetic defect could, for example, be a trigger for certain bacteria in the intestine to be attacked and the intestinal wall less protected. Environmental influences such as nutrition and other living conditions are less significant during the development, but may have an effect on the course of chronic intestinal diseases. Thus it is quite striking that diseases such as ulcerative colitis occur more frequently in an industrialised environment. Therefore, certain components of a typical lifestyle in the modern world could favour the development of intestinal inflammations.

A first step to find out if you suffer from ulcerative colitis may be to have your intestinal flora examined. With the form BIOMES you can easily learn more about the composition of your microbiome. You will even get tips on what you can do for the health of your intestines. Of course, the test cannot replace a correct diagnosis for certain diseases by a doctor, but it can tell you a lot about the conditions in your intestine.

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Prognosis Of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is usually chronic, with repeated flare-ups and remissions . In about 10% of people, an initial attack progresses rapidly and results in serious complications. Another 10% of people recover completely after a single attack. The remaining people have some degree of recurring disease.

People who have ulcerative proctitis have the best prognosis. Severe complications are unlikely. However, in about 20 to 30% of people, the disease eventually spreads to the large intestine . In people who have proctitis that has not spread, surgery is rarely required, cancer rates are not increased, and life expectancy is normal.

What Are The Complications Of Ulcerative Colitis

What is Ulcerative Colitis? Why is this chronic disease diagnosis can be scary?

UC can also lead to complications, especially if left untreated or if you dont follow the directions for your medications to a T . Common complications of UC include:

  • Rectal bleeding, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia

  • A rupture of the bowel

  • Increased risk of colon cancer

  • Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which can lead to bone loss in the form of osteopenia or osteoporosis

  • Inflammation throughout the body, such as the eyes, skin, and joints

If youve had surgery for UC, keep in mind there may be surgical complications as well. Talk with your doctor about any warning signs to watch for.

Complications of ulcerative colitis include:

  • primary sclerosing cholangitis where the bile ducts inside the liver become damaged
  • an increased risk of developing bowel cancer
  • poor growth and development in children and young people

Also, some of the medications used to treat ulcerative colitis can cause weakening of the bones as a side effect.

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Whats The Difference Between Ulcerative Colitis And Colitis

Colitis refers to inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Colitis causes symptoms such as abdominal pain and cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.

An inflamed colon can be caused by several conditions. UC is one possible cause. Other possible causes of colitis include:

  • infection
  • Crohns disease
  • an allergic reaction

To diagnose the cause of colitis, a doctor will order a series of tests. These tests will help them understand what other symptoms youre experience and rule out conditions based on what youre not experiencing.

Treatment for colitis will depend on the underlying cause and other symptoms you have.

Ulcerative Colitis And Colorectal Cancer

Ulcerative colitis increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer often begins as small growths on the inside of the large intestine. The risk of colorectal cancer increases based on:

  • the length of time a person has had ulcerative colitis
  • how much of the colon is affected by ulcerative colitis

People with ulcerative colitis should have more frequent tests for polyps and colorectal cancer than people at average risk. The gold standard screening test is a colonoscopy. Polyps can be removed during a colonoscopy. This reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor how often you should be checked for colorectal cancer.

Surgery to remove the entire colon eliminates the risk of colon cancer.

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Inflammation In Other Areas

Some people with IBD have painful inflammation in other areas of the body, including:

  • joints of the fingers, hands, feet, ankles and knees
  • joints of the spine, including vertebrae and sacroiliac joints
  • eyes

Two specific skin problems that can occur as a result of IBD are:

  • pyoderma gangrenosum small, sunken ulcers on the skin
  • erythema nodosum painful, small, reddened nodules on the skin .

Bloating Or Fullness Distended Stomach Frequent Urge To Urinate And Frequent Urination

Ulcerative Colitis  Mind &  Body Holistic Health Clinic

Reviewed on 10/9/2020

Many different conditions can cause the symptoms of bloating, distended stomach, and urinary symptoms. Some conditions like diabetes can increase the risk for infection, which can cause these symptoms. Other common causes can include gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, or giardiasis. Talk to you doctor about any concerning symptoms to help determine the cause.

While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:

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Ulcerative Colitis In Children

According to one study of IBD in the United States, 1 in 1,299 children between ages 2 and 17 years old were affected by the condition in 2016. Crohns disease was twice as common as UC, and boys were more likely to have IBD than girls.

For children with IBD, a diagnosis is more likely after 10 years old.

UC symptoms in children are similar to symptoms in older individuals. Children may experience bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, and fatigue.

In addition, they may experience issues compounded by the condition, such as:

  • anemia due to blood loss
  • malnutrition from poor eating
  • unexplained weight loss

UC can have a significant effect on a childs life, especially if the condition isnt treated and managed properly. Treatments for children are more limited because of possible complications. For example, medicated enemas are rarely used as a treatment method in children.

However, children with UC may be prescribed medications that reduce inflammation and prevent immune system attacks on the colon. For some children, surgery may be necessary to manage symptoms.

If your child has been diagnosed with UC, its important that you work closely with their doctor to find treatments and lifestyle changes that can help. Check out these tips for parents and children dealing with UC.

Research And Statistics: How Many People Have Ulcerative Colitis

People of European descent have a higher risk of developing ulcerative colitis than do those of African or Hispanic descent.

People of European Jewish descent have an especially high risk.

Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families, affecting men and women equally overall. But older men are more likely to develop it than older women, according to the Crohns and Colitis Foundation.

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Coping With Ulcerative Colitis Skin Problems

Theres really nothing you can do to prevent any of the skin conditions related to ulcerative colitis, says Hagan. But since many of these problems coincide with flares, it can be helpful to manage the underlying ulcerative colitis as much as possible.

It can also be helpful to reduce stress, which can trigger flares and, in turn, skin problems, says Papantoniou. Meditation or deep breathing may be very helpful in reducing stress, she adds.

To minimize the outward appearance of skin problems, try covering up problem areas with clothes if you can and makeup is okay in some cases.

As long as the skin barrier isnt broken, its safe to cover up hyperpigmentation or red patches with a concealer, says Papantoniou. Ask your healthcare provider which products are safe for you to use.

Additional reporting by Jordan M. Davidson.

Eye Problems Associated With Ibs

Discussing autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis

Since IBS is a chronic condition, there are some potential impacts on other parts of the body, including the eyes. These include the following:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Dry eyes
  • Painful, red eyes

One survey found that eye problems occurred in 4 to 10 percent of people with IBS and seemed to be more common in Crohns disease than ulcerative colitis.

The list of eye conditions associated with IBS includes:

These conditions could develop before or after the diagnosis of IBS, but they tended to be associated with the onset of other symptoms.

Corticosteroids are the first choice for reducing inflammation associated with many autoimmune conditions, including IBS. These can help reduce swelling associated with parts of the eye too.

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Does Ulcerative Colitis Make You Immunocompromised

Ulcerative colitis doesnt make you immunocompromised. Some of the medicines that treat it may change the way your immune system responds. This change is different for each medication. Some of these changes may increase the risk of certain infections or other issues. A discussion with your health care team before starting a medication is the best way to understand these risks and ways to prevent them.

Will I Need Surgery For Crohn’s Disease

Maybe. More than half of people with Crohn’s disease need surgery within 20 years of being diagnosed.16 Surgery can relieve your symptoms, but it cannot cure the disease.

Surgeries for Crohn’s disease include:15

  • Bowel resection. In this surgery, your doctor removes the damaged part of your small or large intestine and sews the two healthy ends together.
  • Removal of your large intestine, including your rectum. After this procedure, your body can no longer get rid of solid waste on its own. Your doctor will make a small opening in the front of your abdominal wall. Then your doctor will bring the end of your small intestine through the hole. This allows waste to drain out of your body. A pouch is worn over the opening to collect waste. You will need to empty the pouch several times a day.
  • Fistula surgery. Some patients develop a collection of pus or drainage of pus from an opening around the anus. Surgery may be required to drain the pus and put in a small wire to keep the pus from recollecting.

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Crohns Disease And Ulcerative Colitis And Digesting Food

Your mouth and stomach break down food by mechanical and chemical means. When the food has reached a pulp-like consistency, it is slowly released into the first part of the small intestine . The food is then massaged along the length of the small intestine. Organs like the pancreas and the gall bladder make digestive enzymes to further break down the food into its simpler components.

The small intestine is lined with microscopic , finger-like projections that lie close to tiny blood vessels . Nutrients pass into the bloodstream through these villi. The rest of the food is pushed into the large bowel, which absorbs excess water. The waste is then temporarily stored in the colon before it is eliminated from the anus.The two ways in which Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis disturb the digestion and absorption processes are:

  • Crohns disease an inflamed ileum impairs absorption of vitamin B12 and bile salts. Inflammation along the length of the small intestine impairs absorption of all food nutrients. Inflammation of the large bowel impairs water absorption, causing diarrhoea.
  • Ulcerative colitis digestion and absorption are generally not affected. Inflammation of the large bowel impairs water absorption, causing diarrhoea.

Other factors that may affect your nutritional status include:

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