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Ulcerative Colitis

(UC; Colitis, Ulcerative)

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. A physical exam will be done.

Testing may include:

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.

RESOURCES:

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
http://www.ccfa.org

Gastro—American Gastroenterological Society
http://www.gastro.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
http://www.cag-acg.org

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada
http://www.ccfc.ca

REFERENCES:

D'Haens GR, Sartor RB, et al. Future directions in inflammatory bowel disease management. 2014;8(8):726-734.

Richman S, Schub T. Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated August 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 19, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Wedlake L, Slack N, et al. Fiber in the treatment and maintenance of inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2014;20(3):576-586.

What is ulcerative colitis? Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America website. Available at: www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis. Accessed September 30, 2014.

Last reviewed August 2014 by Daus Mahnke, MDLast Updated: 7/23/2014

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