Definition

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease .

It causes:

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

Ulcerative Colitis

© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Causes

The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. Inflammatory bowel diseases (UC and Crohn's disease ) seem to run in some families. Some think that a virus or bacteria causes the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.

Risk Factors

Having family members with inflammatory bowel disease is the only risk factor.

Symptoms

These factors increase your chance of developing UC. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool test
  • Barium enema —injection of fluid into the rectum that makes your colon show up on an x-ray so the doctor can see abnormal spots in your colon
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy —a thin, lighted tube inserted into the rectum to examine the rectum and the lower colon
  • Colonoscopy —a thin, lighted tube inserted through the rectum and into the colon to examine the lining of the colon
  • Biopsy —removal of a sample of colon tissue for testing (may be performed as part of a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy)

Treatment

Avoid Foods That Provoke Symptoms

Talk to your doctor to learn more about what foods to avoid, since this may be different for each person.

Aminosalicylate Medications

Steroid Anti-inflammatory Medications

Immune Modifier Medications

Biological Agents

Surgery

Medication may not cure very severe UC. In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery . This can involve having all or part of the colon removed. Surgery may also be done because UC increases your risk of colon cancer .

Over time, colitis that is not treated or does not respond to treatment can lead to:

If you are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, follow your doctor's instructions .

Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing ulcerative colitis.