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Conditions In Brief

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Definition | Causes | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Prevention

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:

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.

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)

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.

RESOURCES:

American Gastroenterological Society

http://www.gastro.org/

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America

http://www.ccfa.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:

Richman S, Schub T. Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center. Available at: http://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: http://www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/. Accessed September 5, 2012.

Last reviewed September 2013 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.