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Definition

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) , which causes:

  • Inflammation
  • Ulcers
  • 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

Symptoms may include:

  • 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. Your doctor may order tests, such as:

Treatment

Treatment options may include:

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods that trigger symptoms, such as:

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the types of foods that you should avoid.

Medications

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

  • Aminosalicylate medicines (such as, sulfasalazine, mesalamine, olsalazine, balsalazide disodium)
  • Steroid anti-inflammatory medicines (such as, prednisone, methylprednisolone, budesonide)
  • Immune modifier medicines (such as, azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, cyclosporine)
  • Biological agents (such as, infliximab, adalimumab)

Surgery

Medicine 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 that 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 this condition.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2013 -
  • Update Date: 09/30/2013 -
  • American Gastroenterological Society

    http://www.gastro.org/

  • Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America

    http://www.ccfa.org/

  • The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

    http://www.cag-acg.org/

  • Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada

    http://www.ccfc.ca

  • Richman S, Schub T. Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center. Available at: www.ebscohost.com/pointOfCare/nrc-about . Updated August 2012. Accessed September 5, 2012.

  • Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated September 2, 2012. Accessed September 5, 2012.

  • 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 5, 2012.