Ulcerative colitis is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes painful ulcers or inflammation in the digestive tract. Experienced gastroenterologist Christopher Tomaino, MD, provides personalized care for this inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) at East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy in Patchogue, New York. If you’re struggling with debilitating symptoms from ulcerative colitis, Dr. Tomaino can help. Call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, or schedule a consultation online today.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the innermost lining of the large intestine. It causes inflammation, sores, and ulcers. Symptoms typically develop gradually and can range from mildly uncomfortable to debilitating.

Ulcers in the digestive tract may only affect certain portions of the colon. However, this chronic condition can also cause ulcers throughout the entire digestive tract. There is currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, but managing your symptoms can help improve your overall quality of life.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis affects everyone differently, and symptoms can change depending on the severity of your inflammation. Ulcers that develop toward the top of the digestive tract can also cause different symptoms than sores that arise toward the end of the colon.

Common signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urgent need to defecate
  • Difficulty passing stool
  • Rectal pain

Because ulcerative colitis shares many symptoms with Crohn’s disease, it’s important to schedule a visit with Dr. Tomaino at East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy to get a proper diagnosis.

What causes ulcerative colitis?

There’s no known cause of ulcerative colitis, but experts suspect an immune system malfunction may be the culprit. The immune system attacks viruses and bacteria to keep you healthy. If there’s a malfunction, it can also target cells in the digestive tract, leading to ulcerative colitis.

Stress and diet can aggravate your symptoms, but they don’t cause ulcerative colitis. While this chronic condition can develop at any age, it typically starts before the age of 30. You’re also at a higher risk of developing ulcerative colitis if you’re caucasian or have a family history of the disease.

How do doctors diagnose ulcerative colitis?

A full physical exam and review of your family and medical history are the first steps in diagnosing ulcerative colitis. Then, Dr. Tomaino orders blood work, stool tests, and urinalysis. For an accurate diagnosis, he also recommends a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.

Colonoscopies and endoscopies are similar procedures that allow Dr. Tomaino to view the inside of your digestive tract.

During a colonoscopy, he inserts a long, flexible tube (colonoscope) into your colon through your rectum. The colonoscope contains a camera and light, so he can check for ulcers and signs of inflammation.

An upper endoscopy is the same procedure, except Dr. Tomaino inserts the tube through your mouth, down your throat, and into your esophagus.

What are the treatments for ulcerative colitis?

How Dr. Tomaino treats your condition depends entirely on your symptoms. Common treatments for ulcerative colitis include one or more of the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Immunosuppressant medications
  • IV medication to prevent inflammation
  • Diet changes
  • Lifestyle modifications

If your symptoms don’t improve with the above treatments, surgery may be your next step. Removing the entire colon and rectum can eliminate your symptoms. During this procedure, Dr. Tomaino creates an opening in your abdomen, called an ileostomy, and places a bag where stool can collect.

For more information on ulcerative colitis, call East Coast Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, or schedule an appointment online today.

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