Colitis is not Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Ulcerative Colitis is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), not to be confused with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is a curable disorder affecting bowel muscle contractions, while IBD (Colitis and Crohn's Disease) are chronic diseases characterized by intestinal inflammation.
There’s more than one type of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative Colitis manifests in several different ways, and is classified by the area which it affects. If found only in the rectum, it is called Proctitis. Colitis in both the sigmoid colon and rectum is called Proctosigmoiditis. When affecting the entire colon, it’s referred to as Pancolitis, Pan-Ulcerative Colitis, or sometimes Total Colitis.
Unlike indigestion, it’s not caused by something you ate
It’s surprising to learn that a disease affecting the intestinal tract is not caused by diet. Before, the medical community held a belief that colitis found its roots in diet, but more recent studies have led researchers to believe that, while aspects of diet may trigger symptoms, the cause of the disease lies in a combination of factors like lifestyle, immune function, genetics, and one’s physical environment.
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It’s expensive to manage
The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America estimates annual costs at $15,000 for the average insured colitis patient.
You’re not necessarily at risk of colon cancer
Those who have just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis might begin to worry about an increased risk of developing colon cancer. While living with certain types of colitis does increase the risk, some forms of colitis do not increase the risk for developing colon cancer any more than for a person without colitis. In general, the risk for colon cancer is only elevated in cases where the whole colon is involved—as in the case of Pancolitis—and in cases where the patient has lived with colitis for a long time. Effective management of the disease in order to maintain a state of remission may reduce the likelihood of developing cancer; surgery to remove the colon eliminates the risk of colon cancer.
Sleep and stress have a major impact on symptoms
You might instinctively link flare-ups to a spicy taco or fizzy beverage, but sometimes the symptoms of colitis are more a matter of subtle lifestyle habits, namely: stress and sleep. Numerous studies demonstrate a link between stress—bad moods, depression, the occurrence of major life events—and a relapse of colitis symptoms. In fact, one study from the Journal of Gastroenterological Research discovered that colitis patients undergoing extreme stress became five times more likely to experience a relapse of the disease the following day. Likewise, a 2014 Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology study has shown that female Colitis patients that get either too little or too much suffer a greater risk for flare-ups.
You’re not as alone as you think
About 700,000 people in the United States alone are currently diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. And although there is no known cure, there are many groups such as the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation that act as resources for the Ulcerative Colitis community. Support can also be found in groups like the Crohn's and Colitis Canada Gutsy Peer Support Group. Awareness of this disease grows every year, as does the number of people who are working to develop better methods for managing and treating Colitis.
Stress as a Trigger for Relapses in IBD: A Case-Crossover Study. Susanna Jaghulta, g, Fredrik Saboonchib, c, d, Jette Mollere , Unn-Britt Johanssona, f, Regina Wredlinga , Marjo Kapraalia. 2013;6(1):10-16
Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation slide presentation Managing the Costs of your IBD Care