Definition

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which causes:

  • Inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum
  • Ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum
  • Bleeding in the lining of the colon and rectum

Ulcerative Colitis

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Causes

The exact cause is unknown. A virus or bacteria may cause the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.

Risk Factors

Having a family member with IBD (includes UC and Crohn's disease) may increase your risk of developing UC.

Symptoms

UC may cause:

Intestinal complications of UC may include:

  • Perforation
  • Fistula—abnormal passageway between 2 bodily structures
  • Obstruction
  • Excess bleeding
  • Toxic megacolon—a potentially life-threatening condition when the colon severely expands, which may result in reduced blood flow

Other complications of UC may include:

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may order tests, such as:

Treatment

Treatment options may include:

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods, such as:

Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what foods may work best for you.

Medications

There are a range of medications that may be prescribed, such as:

  • Aminosalicylates
  • Steroid anti-inflammatory medications
  • Immune modifiers
  • Biological agents

Surgery

Surgery involves partial or complete removal of the colon. This may be necessary for:

  • An emergency, such as a perforation, excessive bleeding, or life-threatening infection
  • Long-term disease that does not respond to medications or other treatment
  • Colon cancer—includes confirmed diagnosis or suspicious tissue on examination
  • Lack of growth because of nutritional deficiencies (in children)

Surgery for UC is curative and reduces the risk of colon cancer.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.