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. A physical exam will be done.

    Testing may include:

        
  • 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.

    Fecal Transplantation

    Fecal transplantation may be used to treat UC.

    Prevention

    There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.