Ulcerative proctocolitis is actually a subtype of ulcerative colitis, which is a chronic (ongoing) disease of the large intestine, or colon, that falls under the category of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Ulcerative proctocolitis refers to inflammation of the innermost lining of both the rectum and colon. Ulcerative colitis affects the rectum in nearly all cases, but often includes other portions of the colon, according to emedicine. Severe cases of ulcerative proctocolitis can cause bleeding and other serious complications.
General symptoms of ulcerative colitis typically include bloody diarrhoea accompanied by an increased urgency to have a bowel movement. Weight loss commonly occurs as well. The disease is considered severe if the sufferer has more than six bloody stools per day, as well as severe cramping, abdominal tenderness, fever, anaemia and weight loss, according to emedicine. Symptoms tend to come and go, and there can be long periods between flare-ups, according to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).
Patients with symptoms of ulcerative proctocolitis typically undergo a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to confirm the diagnosis. Both procedures involve the insertion of a long tube with a small camera attached to view the colon and take tissue samples if necessary. A sigmoidoscopy examines only the rectum and lower colon.
A range of complications in sufferers of ulcerative colitis include profuse bleeding from deep ulcerations on the colon wall, which can cause anaemia and even death; perforation (rupture) of the bowel, which can lead to infection; or simply the patient's failure to respond appropriately to the standard medical treatments, according to CCFA. In each of these cases, surgery--which usually involves removal of the colon--is likely required.
A number of medications are effective at minimising the severity and recurrence of ulcerative colitis symptoms. These medications include corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) and "sulfa" drugs (e.g., sulfasalazine), according to CCFA. For sufferers who do not respond to medication and/or experience complications, colectomy (removal of the colon) is the required surgical treatment. Colectomy is the only known cure for ulcerative colitis, according to CCFA.
It is a common misconception that spicy foods, stress and other factors can cause ulcerative colitis. Currently, there is no known cause of the disease. These factors may aggravate the condition, however.