Ulcerative colitis (UC)

What is it?

Ulcerative rectocolitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestine that mainly affects young people between 20 and 30 years old. Although the causes of ulcerative rectocolitis have not yet been defined, it is known that several environmental, familial and genetic factors may play a role in its etiopathogenesis. Underlying the disease is an excessive activation of the immune system that leads to damage in the rectum and can progress to affect the entire colon.

Which are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of ulcerative rectocolitis are diarrhea and the presence of blood or mucus in the stool. Sometimes fever, abdominal pain, weight loss and anemia also occur. In the most severe cases, if the disease is not recognized and treated in time, severe complications may occur such as fulminant colitis with abnormal dilatation of the colon, up to intestinal perforation. In addition to intestinal symptoms, extraintestinal manifestations such as joint pain, ocular or dermatological symptoms may also be present.

  • Diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fecal incontinence

How is it diagnosed?

The diagnosis of ulcerative rectocolitis is made on the basis of many factors that include symptoms compatible with intestinal disease, blood and stool tests indicative of inflammation (elevation of C-reactive protein and fecal calprotectin), radiological examinations such as CT scan to exclude possible complications and colonoscopy that allows to visualize any lesions of the mucosa of the rectum and colon and to take biopsies of mucosal fragments in order to analyze them.

Suggested exams

How is it treated?

The treatment of ulcerative rectocolitis depends on the severity of the disease. In milder forms, in fact, it is sufficient to take mesalazine, an anti-inflammatory drug, orally or rectally. In more severe forms, however, it is necessary to administer specific drugs that reduce the hyperactivity of the immune system (corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, biological drugs or small molecules) orally, subcutaneously or intravenously. Since this is a chronic disease, therapy should be taken long term to maintain the therapeutic effects over time. In the most critical forms, hospitalization may be required and in rare cases even surgery to remove the colon and rectum. Ulcerative rectocolitis is associated with an increased risk of developing colon cancer and therefore periodic endoscopic controls are necessary.

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