Few things cause more concern than dramatic changes in the way our digestive systems work. And the sight of blood in the stool is one of the most alarming differences that can come about. While most cases are attributable to hemorrhoids, there could be more going on. This is why it is a good idea to contact a doctor at the first signs of abdominal and digestive distress. You could be dealing with ulcerative colitis, which is something you can get a handle on - but you need a diagnosis first.
Besides bloody stool, pay attention to other symptoms such as pain in the left side of the abdomen, unexplained weight loss, cramping, a sudden, pressing need to defecate or diarrhea that will not go away on its own. Our digestive systems are very complicated, easy to throw off balance and, obviously, central to our lives. Because of this, there are a lot of different causes to consider.
Ulcerative colitis is fairly rare, with about 1,000,000 cases found in the US. It affects men and women equally, but Caucasian people are more likely to have the disease. A diagnosis will most likely come about in a person’s mid- to late-thirties. When it comes to this condition, the most important factor in your background will be finding out if other people in your family, close relatives like parents or siblings, are suffering from it. While it is not an exact indicator, this could make you up to 30% more likely to receive a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.
This is why this diagnosis is so important. When you meet with your physician, it may be helpful to keep a journal detailing your bowel movements, your diet and when you feel pain in your lower belly or on your left side. Early on, they will take a stool sample for testing at a laboratory. They may also request an X-ray be done to examine your intestines.
From there, a colonoscopy may be required to check out the entire colon. This process would be carried out in a special clinic or at a hospital. You will have to prepare your body for the test using laxatives and abstaining from food and drink the night before the test. During the test, a flexible camera tube will be inserted through the rectum. It is a way for your medical team to examine the inside of your intestines and see if there are any ulcers or sores. A biopsy, or tiny portion of cells, may also be removed for more testing.
While there can be a lot of anxiety, and even embarrassment, surrounding these kinds of symptoms, it is worthwhile to seek professional help. Ulcerative colitis comes in several varieties, but it always involves ulcers or sores in the lining of the intestines. It can not be cured, but you could greatly improve your quality of life with lifestyle changes. And, just as importantly, it is a condition that can worsen over time. It can also add to your risk of colon cancer.