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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, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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