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An Intense Internal Battle

Zhen Zhen Chen

The immune system wages a fierce war, mistaking normal cells in the gut for invaders, and the result of this long-term conflict is the need for lifelong medication to suppress it. Unlike typical acute intestinal inflammation due to bacterial and viral infections that gets better within half a month, ulcerative colitis can take a long time to treat and, in some cases, may even be cured for life. Is ulcerative colitis really as difficult and incurable as cancer? Frequent recurrence of the disease brings inconvenience to patients' daily life. So, what are some ways to prevent these complications? So if we get sick, how should we manage and treat it?


Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by ulceration and inflammation of the rectum or sigmoid colon and is caused by immune system dysfunction. The term "ulcerative colitis" originated in 1859 when one of Samuel Wilks' patients was diagnosed with the disease. In the 20th century, the number of cases of this disease suddenly increased. Studies show that approximately 600,000 to 900,000 people in the United States have ulcerative colitis. Incidence is highest in North America and Northern Europe, affecting individuals between the ages of 15 and 30 years. The main affected groups include children, adolescents, and adults.

The exact cause of the disease is unknown, but is closely related to immune system disorders. The uncontrollable immune system, while attacking invading viruses and bacteria, inadvertently targets normal cells in the gut. Secondly, family genetics also plays a role, as people with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk of developing the disease. Different people's living environment leads to different possibilities of contracting the disease, and diet is related to geographical and environmental factors. People's eating habits can significantly affect their overall health. Irregular eating patterns can lead to immune system imbalances, altered gut microbiota, and disease onset. For example, Western societies have higher rates of obesity and common diseases due to their preference for fast food and high-calorie meals.

People with ulcerative colitis may experience fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and bowel sounds. Severe cases may include rectal bleeding and dehydration. Patients may have a sudden urge to defecate, ranging from a dozen times a day, depending on the severity, and the pain will lessen after defecation. The constant urge to go to the bathroom can fatigue patients, leading to weight loss, paleness, and weakness. Malnutrition combined with symptoms of anemia makes it difficult for patients to work and participate in activities. To diagnose the disease, doctors rely on blood and stool tests, as well as taking biopsy samples through colonoscopy, which involves taking tissue samples to confirm the presence of ulcerative colitis.

Current treatments involve the use of drugs to stabilize a dysregulated immune system. The most effective drug is mesalazine, which contains 5-aminosalicylic acid, which can inhibit inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. Other drugs can be supplemented according to the severity of the condition. Surgical intervention, including removal of the diseased colon and rectum, is also a possibility. Recovery is challenging and requires ongoing medication to maintain health. Eating spicy, high-calorie, and greasy foods can cause relapse, so you need to pay attention to your eating habits. Patients should focus on a diet rich in protein and vitamins and avoid foods that are difficult to digest and absorb to facilitate faster recovery. Regular exercise is essential to boost immunity and fight disease.

Patients must not discontinue medication, as doing so may lead to diarrhea. If medications prove ineffective, surgery may be necessary to remove the colon and alleviate suffering. Complications of ulcerative colitis may include colon cancer, arthritis, colon perforation, and erythema nodosum. However, recent treatments involve the use of regulators such as ustekinumab (UST), risankimumab (RZB), brazikumab, mirikizumab, guselkumab, targeting inflammation. Experts are currently studying intestinal microbiota components to regulate and balance the immune system using probiotics.

 

As medical technology continues to advance and improve, the future is full of possibilities. Therefore, it is crucial not to abandon treatment and preventive measures. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle through proper eating habits, regular exercise, and annual checkups can reduce the risk of contracting diseases. Regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, can help patients prevent colon cancer. Mental health, getting enough sleep, and adjusting immune system patterns through rest can prevent unnecessary illness.

In summary, ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel illness that poses significant challenges to young people entering society. Although there is currently no complete cure, managing the immune system with medication and lifestyle can maintain a normal life. As treatments, science, and research continue to advance, more insights are emerging in the areas of the immune system and gut microbiome. Therefore, it is not too late, to keep your body and mind healthy, check regularly, stay optimistic, and face life positively.


After reading this article, how much do you understand about this illness? If you have any suggestions for the topic of the next informative article, feel free to share them in the comments!



Reference

1:National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Symptoms & Causes of Ulcerative Colitis." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/ulcerative-colitis/symptoms-causes


2:Wikipedia contributors. "Ulcerative Colitis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,


3:Genetics Home Reference. "Ulcerative Colitis." U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/ulcerative-colitis/


4:Mayo Clinic Staff. "Ulcerative Colitis - Symptoms and Causes." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 


5:Better Health Channel. "Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis." Better Health Channel, Department of Health & Human Services, State Government of Victoria, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/crohns-disease-and-ulcerative-colitis

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