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Definition

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It results in inflammation and ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum.

Ulcerative Colitis

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Causes

The exact cause is not known. Things that may play a role are:

  • Micro organisms in the intestines that cause the immune system to overreact
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors, such as diet, drugs, infection, and stress

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who are 15 to 30 years of age. It is also more common in people of Jewish descent.

Other things that may play a role are:

  • Having a family member with IBD
  • Environmental factors
  • Certain medicines, such as anti-inflammatory nonsteroidal drugs
  • Gastroenteritis

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Belly cramps and pain
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy and weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Skin rash

Diagnosis

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

Blood and stool tests may be done.

The inside of the colon and rectum will be viewed. This can be done with:

A sample of tissue may be taken from the colon and rectum. This can be done with a biopsy.

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Dietary changes, such as eating a healthful diet while avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Fecal transplantation to place the stool of a healthy person into the colon of someone with UC
  • Mental health counseling to help cope with the disease
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Aminosalicylates
    • Steroid anti-inflammatory medications
    • Immune modifiers
    • Biological agents

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. A colectomy is the partial or full removal of the colon.

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES:

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

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation
http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

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

Crohn's and Colitis Canada
http://crohnsandcolitis.ca

REFERENCES:

Rubin DT, Ananthakrishnan AN, et al. ACG Clinical Guideline: Ulcerative Colitis in Adults. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019 Mar;114(3):384-413.

Ulcerative colitis in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ulcerative-colitis-in-adults. Accessed March 24, 2021.

What is ulcerative colitis? Crohn's & Colitis Foundation website. Available at: http://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis. Accessed March 24, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD  Last Updated: 03/24/2021