Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Health Care and Colitis

Severe abdominal pain is often associated with a medical symptom known as Colitis, and can be extremely painful. According to HealthProfessor.com, colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine (colon). Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine that can be caused by many different disease processes. These processes include acute and chronic infections, inflammatory disorders (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's colitis, lymphocytic and collagenous colitis), lack of blood flow (ischemic colitis), and history of radiation to the large bowel. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal bloating, increased intestinal gas, and bloody stools.

All types of colitis are associated with inflammation of the colon, though some types may be more severe and potentially dangerous than others. When a patient complains of pain and diarrhea with or without bloody stool, it is important to diagnose the type of colitis since treatments are different for the different types of colitis, according to MedicineNet.com. Many bacteria normally reside in the colon; they live in harmony with the body and cause no symptoms. However, if disease-causing bacteria are ingested with bacteria-contaminated foods, these bacteria may infect the small intestine and/or colon. Sometimes colitis may occur after antibiotics have been prescribed for an infection elsewhere in the body. The antibiotic suppresses some of the normal bacteria within the colon and allows an overgrowth of another type of bacteria, some of which can lead to colitis.

The colon can be thought of as a hollow muscle, according to Medicine Net. It requires a supply of blood to bring oxygen and nutrients in order for the muscles to function normally. When the colon loses its supply of blood and becomes ischemic (isch= restricted + emia=blood supply), it may become inflamed. Ischemia or lack of blood supply causes pain, fever, and bloody bowel movements. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that give rise to colitis. Ulcerative colitis always begins in the rectum and sigmoid colon and frequently progresses over time through the ascending, transverse, and then ascending colon. It is thought to be a disease caused by overactivity of the immune system and usually causes abdominal pain, and bloody, diarrheal bowel movements. Crohn's disease may occur anywhere in the digestive tract - in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, or colon - though it is most commonly involves the small intestine and colon. In Crohn's disease there may be "skip lesions," that is, abnormal segments interspersed between normal segments. If segments of the colon are involved, then symptoms of colitis may be present.

Colitis may be identified by flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy -- in both of these tests, a flexible tube is inserted in the rectum, and specific areas of the colon are evaluated. Biopsies taken during these tests may show changes related to inflammation, according to Health Professor.com. Other studies that can identify colitis include:
•Barium enema.
•Abdominal CT scan.
•Abdominal MRI.
•Abdominal x-ray.
Treatment is directed at the underlying cause of disease, whether it be infection, inflammation, lack of blood flow, or another cause. The prognosis varies with each disease. Colitis may result in bleeding, ulceration, perforation (a hole in the colon), or toxic megacolon. Call your health care provider if you have symptoms like abdominal pain, abdominal distention, or blood in the stool.

Common symptoms associated with colitis are abdominal cramping, frequent loose stools or persistent diarrhea, loss of control of bowel function, fever, sleepiness, and weight loss. Depending on the cause, colitis may be treated in several ways, according to WiseGeek.com. One of the first steps in diagnosing colitis is identifying the cause. Some forms of colitis may be caused by infection through bacteria, certain viruses, and some parasites. For example, exposure to the salmonella bacteria or any other bacteria needs to be treated with antibiotics to resolve the condition. Parasitic or amoebic infection usually warrants a course of either antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication. Viral colitis can be more difficult to treat.

Viruses like Rotavirus or Norovirus can result in dehydration, particularly in the very young or very old. Rest and increased fluid intake are often prescribed, according to Wise Geek. However, if a person becomes severely dehydrated, he or she may need care in a hospital to receive intravenous fluids. Certain diseases can predispose one to attacks of colitis. The most frequent cause of colitis in those with intestinal diseases is Crohn’s disease, which is a degenerative intestinal disorder. People with Crohn’s are more prone to colitis and to other serious conditions like perforated bowel. Those with Crohn’s need to take seriously the symptoms listed above and see a doctor immediately. Any of these symptoms can necessitate medical treatment. Irritable bowel disorder (IB) can also cause bouts of colitis. Since IB is both difficult to diagnose and to treat, anyone who has had frequent recurrences of the symptoms above is prone to colitis and should contact a doctor if he or she suspects colitis. Especially if bacteria or parasites causes the colitis, this can only worsen IB and needs immediate treatment.

While antibiotics are used to treat bacterial colitis, they can also be indicated as a cause of colitis in some cases. Additional causes of colitis may include taking birth control medication, having autoimmune disorders, or smoking. If diarrhea and fever persist for more than two days, and you don’t have a disease that would necessitate earlier treatment, you should see a doctor quickly. If you have severe stomach pain with fever, you should not wait to see a physician during office hours but proceed to the emergency room, as this may indicate appendicitis or bowel injury. If you suspect food poisoning, it is better to go the emergency room, since some bacteria can be very harmful, according to Wise Geek. You can reduce your risk of colitis by using sanitary cooking and eating practices, avoiding caffeinated beverages, and not taking medications like ibuprofen if you have irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel conditions. Treatment for those with frequent bouts of colitis will focus on trying to reduce symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes these treatments of symptoms are the only way to address colitis. Yet even with treatment, those with Crohn’s and other autoimmune or known stomach disorders should be vigilant if they suspect colitis, since other more serious conditions may also have the same symptoms as colitis.

What Factors Increase Your Risk of Getting Colitis? While the exact cause of colitis is not yet known, certain factors make it more likely a person will develop the disease, according to EverydayHealth.com. These include:
Age: While colitis can begin at any age, it usually starts when people are between 15 and 30 years old. Family history: Up to 20 percent of people with colitis have a close relative with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Ethnic background: There is a higher incidence of ulcerative colitis in whites than in non-whites, and a higher incidence among Jews than in non-Jews.
Where you live: Ulcerative colitis occurs mostly in developed countries, and is found more often in urban areas than rural ones, and in northern regions rather than southern regions.
 
In general, according to Everyday Health, a treatment plan may include:

--Medications which reduce inflammation and treat the symptoms of ulcerative colitis to prevent them from coming back. The four main categories of medication are aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators and biologic therapies.
--Surgery may be recommended at some point in the course of the disease. About 25 percent to 40 percent of people with ulcerative colitis eventually have their colon removed. Some opt for surgery after drug therapy fails to control severe and ongoing symptoms. Surgery may also be necessary if a person suffers serious complications from ulcerative colitis.

There is no cure for colitis, but with the right treatment, the disease can be well-managed. Among the best ways of controlling colitis is aggressive treatment in the early stages of the disease so that you maintain remission and your symptoms do not get worse. Adherence to your treatment plan and communication with your doctor about your symptoms or treatment side effects are key to living comfortably with the disease. Research has shown that ulcerative colitis may make it more likely that a person will develop arthritis, eye inflammation, liver diseases and osteoporosis. Scientists do not know how or why colitis influences these other health problems, but they think inflammation triggered by the immune system may play a part. In some cases, the conditions that occur outside of the large intestine go away when the colitis is treated. About 5 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis develop colon cancer, which is a higher rate than for people without ulcerative colitis. The risk of colon cancer increases in each decade after ulcerative colitis is diagnosed, according to Everyday Health. More info can be found at this site: http://www.everydayhealth.com/colitis/10-key-questions-about-ulcerative-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis.aspx .

Colitis is a very serious medical issue that needs immediate attention if you suspect that you may be experiencing any of the symptoms. To prevent more serious health care issues, and to get the proper prescribed treatment, go to your family physician or closest medical clinic to get treated. If your symptoms get worse or don't go away, do not delay seeking medical care as the problem only gets more severe and may result in more critical health issues. Make sure that your doctor is aware of any family history of colitis or any symptoms that have been recurring with you relative to this disease. Always seek proper health care advice from a qualified medical provider for this or any other symptoms.
 
Until next time.

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