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:

        
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Arthritis
  • Eye inflammation, such as uveitis
  • 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:

        
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Colon cancer
  • Diagnosis

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

        
  • Blood tests
  • Stool test
  • Barium enema
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Treatment

    Treatment options may include:

    Dietary Changes

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

        
  • Dairy (due to lactose intolerance)
  • Alcohol
  • Red and processed meats
  • Refined sugar
  • Saturated fat
  • 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.