Ulcerative Colitis

(UC; Colitis, Ulcerative)


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    TOP

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

Risk Factors    TOP

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

Symptoms    TOP

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    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Testing may include:

Treatment    TOP

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.


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

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

Surgery    TOP

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    TOP

Fecal transplantation may be used to treat UC.

Prevention    TOP

There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.


American Gastroenterological Society
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America


The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada


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Updated September 19, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
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8/31/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Update
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Moayyedi P, Surette MG, Kim PT, et al. Fecal microbiota transplantation induces remission in patients with active ulcerative colitis in a randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology. 2015;149(1):102-109.
Last reviewed August 2015 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 8/31/2015

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