Ulcerative colitis is a relatively uncommon condition affecting between 40-240 people per 100,000. If you’re struggling with this disease, you’re far from alone, however, with about 750,000 in the U.S. dealing with the same.

As you work to manage your symptoms, you might have some questions about moving forward with ulcerative colitis surgery as a means of curing the disease and relieving yourself from years of pain and discomfort. Here are some things to know before you make the decision:

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a common type of inflammatory bowel disease where parts of the body’s digestive tract become swollen and covered in ulcers.

Ulcerative colitis affects the rectum and the colon and symptoms are range from mildly uncomfortable to quite painful.

Some of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis include diarrhea, belly pain, and bleeding or mucus during bowel movements. Some patients experience additional symptoms in other areas of their body such as their skin, eyes, and/or joints.

How is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?

In mild cases of ulcerative colitis, certain medications can help to reduce any swelling or diarrhea. For other patients with a more severe case, medication doesn’t do much to relieve ulcerative colitis pain. In such situations, the removal of part of the colon is necessary as the only available cure for the disease.

Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your individual circumstances.

What Are the Long-Term Risks of This Disease?

If you’re living with ulcerative colitis pain, you know that your overall quality of life is diminished by its existence. You might be experiencing frequent diarrhea that makes it hard to engage in social activities the way you’d like. Or your pain in your abdomen might be so intense at times that you can’t perform your duties at work or at home. This disease and its symptoms can cause a lot of stress and feelings of depression.

If ulcerative colitis goes untreated, it can raise your risk of developing colon cancer. Most doctors advise their patients to get tested for colon cancer if they’ve had ulcerative colitis for more than 8 years.

The risk of developing colon cancer is at its highest once the ulcerative colitis has affected the whole colon instead of just a small portion of it. So seeking treatment early on is important.

What is Ulcerative Colitis Surgery Like?

Once a patient and doctor have determined that surgery is the best method for treating this disease, there are two main types of surgeries for doing so.

The first ulcerative colitis surgery method is known as “Ileoanal Anastomosis”. This type of surgery is the most common and includes the removal of both the large intestine and the lining of the rectum. Those who undergo this type of surgery can still have bowel movements without trouble.

The other type of surgery is known as “Proctocolectomy and Ileostomy”. This method is for patients who aren’t able to be under anesthesia for a long period of time due to their age or because of illness.

A large part of the intestine and rectum is removed and afterwards, the patient will wear an ostomy bag attached to a small opening in the stomach. This bag collects waste from the body. This type of surgery has a lower risk of post-surgical problems compared to the ileoanal anastomosis method.

When Might My Doctor Recommend Surgery?

Ulcerative colitis surgery might be recommended to you by your doctor if:

The medication you’ve been taking for treatment has failed to manage your symptoms.

You have holes developing in your large intestine.

You are either developing cancer in your colon or your doctor determines you’re at an increased risk for developing cancer.

You are experiencing severe bleeding.

Together, you and your doctor can decide whether or not surgery is the right step for improving your quality of life.

Surgery vs. Medication

Part of deciding whether or not to move forward with ulcerative colitis surgery comes by comparing your options.

With the surgical removal of your colon, it’s usually done in two parts a couple of weeks apart. After each surgery, you can expect to stay in the hospital for a few days. Recovery at home can take up to two weeks and depending on the type of surgery, you may have to wear an ostomy bag.

If you keep taking medication as a means of controlling your symptoms, you might need to try different kinds to find which ones work for you. You’ll need to continue seeing your doctor regularly to keep your condition in check.

Medicine can help many patients relieve symptoms, control the disease, and avoid the risks of surgery. However, surgery cures ulcerative colitis and prevents colon cancer or stop the spread of cancer throughout the rest of the colon.

Possible Risks

There are some risks associated with surgery that each patient should be aware of. Some of these risks include a possible blockage of the small intestine, swelling, leaking of stool, an infection in the stomach or pelvic area, and incontinence.

Continuing with the path of medication also comes with risks including side effects such as cataracts or osteoporosis. Medication never comes with a guarantee of controlling symptoms, especially severe symptoms and medication cannot cure ulcerative colitis or prevent colon cancer.

Discover Other Helpful Health Advice

Hopefully, this article has shed some light on the ulcerative colitis surgery to help you decide if this is something you want to pursue to improve your health.

While you’re here, be sure to check out our other useful health-related articles full of tips and advice for living a better life.