But last fall, there she was, sidelined with severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and stomach cramps.
“I couldn’t go anywhere without the constant fear that I would be struck with sudden severe twisting in my guts,” says the Milton, Pa., resident. “I was miserable. My husband — who’s an emergency nurse at UPMC Muncy — and I both thought it was food poisoning.”
Her primary care doctor thought so, too. But after weeks of testing for salmonella and other types of infection — which were all negative — she was referred to gastroenterologist Stacy Prall, DO, at UPMC Williamsport.
Samantha felt relieved.
“I was so sick for so long. All I wanted were answers,” she says. “I felt confident a UPMC specialist could help.”
At her first appointment with Dr. Prall in her Muncy clinic, Samantha described her symptoms and reviewed her history with the doctor.
“She was amazing. Before doing any tests, Dr. Prall suspected she knew what it was,” says Samantha.
Two days later at UPMC Williamsport, Dr. Prall performed a colonoscopy procedure that confirmed her suspicions. Samantha had ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the large intestine or colon.
There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, but medicine can help. Samantha was immediately prescribed medication to calm the inflammation and allow the tissue to heal. Within days, her symptoms began to subside. “I felt so much better,” she says.
Samantha continues to see Dr. Prall every three to four months for careful management of her disease. Her first follow-up appointment was in Muncy six weeks after her colonoscopy. Three months later, she saw Dr. Prall at the Lewisburg clinic, with both locations being within 15 minutes of her home.
“I would see her no matter where I have to go, but these locations are so convenient,” says Samantha.
When she experienced a flare up triggered by taking ibuprofen, Samantha was relieved to quickly reach Dr. Prall through the MyUPMC mobile app.
“Having that access is great, especially when you’re sick and need a quick answer,” she says. “I explained what was going on and got the medicine I needed without leaving home. I didn’t even have to talk on the phone — something that’s not always easy when you have kids!
“I feel blessed that I found Dr. Prall. I know I can count on her,” Samantha says. “Now that it’s diagnosed and being managed properly, everything has changed,” she adds. “I can take long walks with the kids, go bike riding, shopping — without any worry.”
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one type of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), which also includes Crohn’s disease. IBD affects about 1.3 million people in the US.
UC can be tough to live with and is characterized by flares and remission patterns (waxing and waning course). If left untreated, UC can lead to significant symptoms, disability, and even death. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to avoid complications and disability.
While we do not know exactly what causes UC, the immune system in patients with UC becomes abnormally activated, leading to excessive inflammation. Genetics are believed to play a very important role. If you have a relative with UC, you are at a higher risk for UC. About 20% of people with the condition have a close family member who also has it.
UC almost always affects the rectum. It can also affect any part of the colon and/or the whole colon. Common symptoms include diarrhea, loose or bloody stool, and cramping stomach pains. Sometimes people with UC can have a fever or become anemic. You can develop UC at any age, but it’s usually diagnosed before age 30.
If you have these symptoms:
For more information, visit UPMC.com/DigestiveNCPA or call 570-321-3454.
If you find yourself with abdominal pain, or have digestive concerns, visit UPMC.com/DigestiveNCPA or call 570-321-3454.