Ulcerative colitis is a difficult disease to deal with. It is sometimes manageable with proper medication and nutrition. However, UC presents additional risks for seniors over 65.
By Dawn Flemming
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease of the colon (large intestine) where the lining of the colon becomes inflamed. Ulcers (small open sores) that produce mucous and pus are usually the result of this inflammation. Inflammation and ulceration can cause abdominal pain, frequent bathroom trips and mild to severe bleeding. It is similar to Crohn’s disease except that Crohn’s usually affects the small intestine, but it can also affect the entirety of the of the gastrointestinal tract whereas UC only affects the large colon. Furthermore, Crohn’s can affect all layers of intestine’s walls whereas UC only affects the lining. People diagnosed with both diseases are at an increased risk for cancer even though the risk is currently declining.
Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system mistakenly attacks the food and bacteria in the colon as foreign and invading substances. Ulcerative Colitis affects around 1 million people in America.
The majority of people diagnosed with UC are between the second and fourth decades of life. About 15% of UC cases happen after the age of 65. Caring for people with UC over the age of 65 brings additional problems in managing the disease. Recent studies have shown that senior patients with UC and Crohn’s have
- increased rates of vascular complications (for example, venous thrombosis).
- Worse outcomes after operation
- Increased rates of complication and prolongation of UC compared to younger patients.
If you are a senior with UC or know someone who suffers from the disease, make sure that you are aware of all the increased risks associated with diagnosis at later ages by discussing it with your GI doctor.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.