Here’s How To Tell If That Pain In Your Abdomen Is Ulcerative Colitis

It can be mistaken for IBS.


Ondela Mlandu |

Abdominal pain is often associated with period pains. The pain you feel in your abdomen may not necessarily be menstrual pains, but could be more serious than that.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon and digestive tract that affects the large intestine. Ulcers may develop on the surface of the intestine lining, causing bleeding and mucus. Fortunately, ulcerative colitis is not contagious.

Women’s Health spoke to gastroenterologist Dr Ian Marr about the ins and outs of ulcerative colitis.

Risk factors

Most people develop ulcerative colitis before the age of 30. Dr Marr says the disease affects all races, but is most common among white people. Men and women are equally affected.

READ MORE: Could Your IBS Be Linked To A Vitamin D Deficiency?

Suspicious of the symptoms?

The common symptoms include: Frequent diarrhoea with blood or mucus in the stools. Other symptoms include fever, fatigue and unexpected weight loss. 

READ MOREEverything You Really Need To Know About Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Treatment options

Ulcerative colitis can be managed through treatment, depending on the severity of the case. “Once the diagnosis of UC has been established (usually by a colonoscopy and biopsy), it’s essential that it’s managed by a specialist gastroenterologist. Ulcerative colitis is not a curable disease and tends to follow a pattern of relapsing and remitting (unless the entire colon is removed surgically). However, it is hugely modifiable by medication,” he says.

Ulcerative colitis affects different parts of the colon and body in different people, and your doctor will start you on a regime that’s specific to you. Surgery is indicated in severe cases that are resistant to medical treatment where the entire colon and rectum are usually removed.

READ MORE: 9 Signs You Could Be Suffering From Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Is it hereditary?

According to Dr Marr, the inheritance pattern of ulcerative colitis is unclear, but having a parent, sibling or child with this condition increases your chances of developing it. “The causes of this overreaction can be hereditary or environmental where certain viruses, bacteria or foreign substances trigger the immune system. The end result is inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the colon, although other organs such as the eyes, joints and skin may also be affected,” he says. 

READ MORE: 5 Simple Ways To Get Rid Of That “Stress Belly” Once And For All

Conditions associated with ulcerative colitis

  1. Anaemia – a red blood cell disorder caused by lack of iron.
  2. Blood clots – clumps of blood formed inside the body.
  3. Hepatitis – inflammation of the liver.
  4. Thin and weak bones.
  5. Mouth ulcers and skin conditions.

READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Health Conditions