Is ulcerative colitis a cause of disability?

August 24, 2022


Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that, well controlled, allows the patient to have a good quality of life. Therefore, having a diagnosed inflammatory bowel disease does not imply a direct recognition of disability. However, there are cases in which the patient cannot develop a normal academic, working or social life because his illness is permanently or intermittently active. This is when we talk about disability due to ulcerative colitis.

Disability is recognized as an objective means of quantifying the impact a disease has on everyday life. It is defined by the WHO (World Health Organization) as “any restriction or lack of capacity to perform an activity in a manner considered normal”.

Types of disability according to the severity of ulcerative colitis

Disability can be classified as transitory or temporary, or permanent and irreversible. Temporary disability refers to a transitory disability that occurs when the patient suffers an outbreak. In other words, we talk about temporary disability when a patient suffers a serious outbreak1 because his disability lasts until the symptoms subside.

On the other hand, permanent disability occurs when the negative impact on the quality of life is continued over time. Cases in which the patient does not suffer irreversible injuries also acquire this entity. This would also be the case for patients who do have post-surgery sequelae or other complications where the changes are irreversible.

How to measure the influence of disability on the patient’s quality of life?

The patient’s perception of the impact of ulcerative colitis on his quality of life is quantifiable. It is measured through Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). This instrument makes available to the doctor instructions for completing the HRQOL2 questionnaire, a series of items (questions) and response options. These items are usually grouped into dimensions that measure various aspects of health, such as physical, mental and social function.

The completion of the test by the patient makes it possible to evaluate the signs and symptoms of the pathology. It also assesses the limitation or alteration of the patient’s psychological well-being, physical capacity and social activities caused by ulcerative colitis. The patient’s responses are scored to get an overview of his condition or quality of life. Thanks to them, healthcare professionals can improve the well-being of patients with ulcerative colitis3.

Is it possible to prevent disability due to ulcerative colitis?

Given the possibility of developing a disability due to ulcerative colitis, either permanent or temporary, the best prevention is a correct control and follow-up of the disease. Hence the importance of attending established medical visits, following the guidelines indicated in the consultation and maintaining the therapeutic adherence to the treatment prescribed by the doctor When the ulcerative colitis is controlled, the inflammation of the intestinal mucosa disappears; that is, the disease is in remission4. With it, in most cases, the disability also disappears. In fact, in a recent study where patients with ulcerative colitis were treated with a TNF inhibitor antibody and fully responded to the treatment were at a lower risk of developing a disability than those with no clinical response5.

The psychological aspect and the feeling of having emotional support is also essential to help the patient reduce the likelihood of suffering a disability due to ulcerative colitis. Hence, in addition to the patient’s environment, patient associations, such as those of the ACCU Confederation in Spain6, have a decisive role when the patient has to face diagnosis, treatments or, even, to maintain an adequate therapeutic adherence.

In these groups, patients share their experiences with others who are in the same situation or who have already overcome it. Information is also provided on the illness and the care services available to them and they even carry out activities with patients and their relatives.

  1. How to act in case of an outbreak of ulcerative colitis? – Adacyte
  3. What is ulcerative colitis? – Adacyte
  4. Remission of inflammatory diseases – Adacyte

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