Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the large
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown.
Intermittent rectal bleeding, crampy abdominal pain
and diarrhea often are symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
The diagnosis of ulcerative colitis can be made with a barium
enema, but direct visualization (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) is the most
accurate means of diagnosis.
ulcerative colitis is a risk factor for
Treatment of ulcerative colitis may involve both
medications and surgery.
Ulcerative colitis also can cause inflammation in joints,
skin, eyes, and the liver and its bile ducts.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the large intestine (colon). The colon is the part of
the digestive system where
water is removed from undigested material, and the remaining waste material is stored. The rectum is the end of
the colon adjacent to the anus. In patients with ulcerative colitis, ulcers and
inflammation of the inner lining of the colon lead to symptoms of
pain, diarrhea, and
Ulcerative colitis is closely
related to another condition of inflammation of the intestines called Crohn's
disease. Together, they are frequently referred to
as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
colitis and Crohn's diseases are chronic conditions that can last
years to decades. They affect approximately 500,000 to 2 million people, in the
United States. Men and women are affected equally. They most commonly begin
during adolescence and early adulthood, but they also can begin during childhood
and later in life.
It is found worldwide, but is most common in the United States, England, and
northern Europe. It is especially common in people of Jewish descent. Ulcerative
colitis is rarely seen in Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America, and is rare
in the black population. For unknown reasons, an increased frequency of this
condition has been observed recently in developing nations.
First degree relatives of people with ulcerative colitis have an increased
lifetime risk of developing the disease, but the overall risk remains small.
The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are abdominal pain and bloody
diarrhea. Patients also may experience
loss of appetite
loss of body fluids and nutrients
growth failure (specifically in children)
About half of the people diagnosed with ulcerative colitis have mild
symptoms. Others suffer frequent fevers, bloody diarrhea, nausea, and severe
abdominal cramps. Ulcerative colitis may also cause problems such as arthritis,
inflammation of the eye, liver disease, and osteoporosis. It is not known why
these problems occur outside the colon. Scientists think these complications may
be the result of inflammation triggered by the immune system. Some of these
problems go away when the colitis is treated.
SOURCE: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Ulcerative