Posted 29 Apr 2020

Guide to Ulcerative Colitis

People with ulcerative colitis will have things to consider and questions to answer when applying for life insurance. We’ll explain the medical condition and then how that could impact insurance premiums.

Our aim is to provide you with a useful guide to help you make an informed decision and give you support through the application.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is similar to other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in how it affects the body and treatments. It is a lifelong (chronic) condition of the large intestine, with no known cure. Primarily this type of condition causes ulcers and inflammation around the colon and rectum areas.

Symptoms can include abdominal pain which can be extremely strong and diarrhoea with blood. People with ulcerative colitis may lead fairly normal lives with no or few symptoms but it can also be more severe, potentially life-threatening.

Inflammatory bowel diseases are a group of medical conditions and diseases that affect the gastrointestinal tract. The most common conditions under IBD’s are Crohn’s disease and Colitis which can also have similar symptoms. These conditions are also classed as autoimmune diseases which is simply where the immune system does not function properly.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

The severity of this condition can vary dramatically from one patient to another. The types of symptoms can also change as time passes which cause other potential issues. As with other IBD’s, there can be periods of few or even no symptoms (remission) and periods where symptoms are regular or acute (flare-ups).

Most common symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis:

  • Abdominal pains.
  • Blood in stools.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • High temperature.
  • Rectal pain.
  • Weight loss.

There are also potential complications which may occur as a result of ulcerative colitis which can include:

  • Dehydration
  • Eye swelling
  • Joint pain/swelling
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin problems
  • Nausea and loss of appetite

What causes Ulcerative Colitis?

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is still a mystery to medical experts around the world. There are several theories which are similar to other inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s. It was previously thought that the cause was stress and diet but we now know that these just aggravate it.

It is strongly believed that the cause of UC is because the immune system is overactive. This is when your immune system fights off invading bacteria or viruses, unusually the immune response causes it to attack cells in the digestive tract as well.

Another possible view on the potential cause of ulcerative colitis is that it is a hereditary condition. There are a number of patients who do have a family history of UC but there are also many instances where this isn’t the case.

Complications with Ulcerative Colitis

There are a number of main issues that people with ulcerative colitis tend to experience either frequently or infrequently. These complications can vary from moderate risk to severe health problems.

Some of the main complications connected to this condition are:

  • Perforated colon
  • Liver disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Colon cancer
  • Rapidly swelling colon

What types of Ulcerative Colitis are there?

The various types are ulcerative colitis are classified based on where they are located on the body. Main types include:

  • Acute severe ulcerative colitis is a rare type of colitis that affects the colon and would cause severe pain, extreme diarrhoea, bleeding, high temperature and loss of appetite
  • Left-sided colitis which is where the inflammation would move from the rectum to the sigmoid and descending colon. Main symptoms for this include bloody stool, diarrhoea, cramp and abdominal pain and weight loss
  • Pancolitis commonly is known to impact the entire colon which can cause bloody diarrhoea (potentially severe), cramps and pains around the abdomen, tiredness and unexplained weight loss
  • Proctosigmoiditis is an inflammation of the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower section of the colon). Symptoms are bloody diarrhoea, pain and cramp of the abdomen and constipation
  • Ulcerative Proctitis causes inflammation around the anus (rectum) and bleeding around the rectum. This type of UC is known to be the mildest

List of Ulcerative Colitis Statistics (UK)

According to recent statistics published by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for 2014, the most recent figures show:

  • Approximately 146,000 patients (240 per 100,000)
  • Most common age group is 15 to 25
  • Next highest age group is 55 to 65
  • Approximately half (50%) of people with UC have 1 or more relapses annually
  • 80% of patients are mild to moderate
  • 20% are severe
  • Approximately 25% of patients have 1 or more severe episodes in their lives

*statistics provided by NICE 2014 report on inflammatory bowel disease (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs81/documents/inflammatory-bowel-disease-briefing-paper2)

Ulcerative Colitis Awareness Events

Here’s a list of some of the events that we follow every year to find out what’s happening in the world relating to ulcerative colitis. Each year these amazing events help to raise thousands of pounds for charities.

  • Crohn’s disease awareness week is a national event through Crohn’s & Colitis UK. This event usually takes place on the 1st week in December to raise awareness and funds for colitis research
  • Crohn’s and Colitis awareness month is a global event in November to increase awareness for people living with the condition
  • World IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) Day is an event held in May across the globe with most national charities involved
  • IBD awareness month is held in the United States in December by leading charities to help raise awareness. There are approximately 3 million people in the US living with Crohn’s disease or Colitis which is 1.3% of the population

Ulcerative colitis charities and support for colitis (UK)

Ulcerative Colitis Charities

There are a number of charities dedicated to helping people with Ulcerative Colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD’s). These organisations provide vital guidance, help and support for those living with this condition.

  • Crohn’s & Colitis UK

Link: https://www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk
Helpline: 0300 222 5700
Address: 1 Bishops Square, Hatfield, AL10 9NE

  • Guts UK

Link: https://gutscharity.org.uk
Telephone: 020 7486 0341
Address: 3 St. Andrews Place, London, NW1 4LB.

  • Catherine McEwan Foundation

Link: https://catherinemcewanfoundation.com
Telephone: 0141 648 8800
Address: Spiersbridge House, 1 Spiersbridge Way, Glasgow, G46 8NG

References:

As a team of experts who regularly help people with medical conditions like Ulcerative Colitis (UC), to get life insurance, our mission is to ensure that everyone who needs it stands the best chance of getting it and that they don’t pay over the odds for it too. Over the past 20 years, we’ve helped thousands of families to get life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection.

If you’ve got ulcerative colitis and you want to know more then read this article where we explain how it works. As the first team of experts in the UK to focus our efforts on helping people like you to get cover, we understand your needs. We’re committed to providing the best advice to our customers regardless of their health.

Daniel Sharpe-Szunko