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Ulcerative Colitis

It's no holiday to have bloody diarrhea from a colon infection. But what if the symptoms lasted for months, or even years? You may be the one out of a thousand that has developed something even more serious -- a scourge called ulcerative colitis.

Mysterious in its causes, unpredictable in its course, and uncertain in its treatment options, ulcerative colitis is a lifelong illness that is often recognized when a colonoscopy shows bleeding irregular ulcers lining the inside of the large bowel after months of crampy pain and bloody diarrhea. Victims will not be reassured to hear that about ten percent of suffers with widespread ongoing colitis (colon inflammation) are likely to develop colon cancer within a decade -- enough risk to make some patients opt for the most radical of treatments -- surgical removal of the entire colon.

Theories abound as to why ulcerative colitis develops. Certain families may have a
genetic susceptibility. A defective immune system may play a role (although since close to 50% of your stool is bacteria, you might wonder why normal people so rarely develop colon irritation). No single germ seems responsible, and diet or lifestyle plays no obvious role. Such uncertainty has fostered a whole ecosystem of alternative medicine treatments (frequently advertised on websites like this) -- all mascarading as legitimate.

The best plan? Find a board-certified gastroenterologist who is willing to learn your
first name, because the two of you are likely to have a long and close relationship.

Although you might balk at wearing an ileostomy bag for the rest of your life, once you recognize that colectomy means a permanent end to the suffering and potentially fatal complications of ulcerative colitis, it is actually reassuring to know that at least one option for permanent cure exists. And it you can always bide your time hoping this "flare" will be your last, or that new medical developments in years ahead may offer a cure to a disease that seems stuck in the 19th century.

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