Ulcerative Colitis

Medical Author:
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

Ulcerative colitis facts

  • Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine (colon).
  • 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.
  • Long-standing ulcerative colitis is a risk factor for colon cancer.
  • Treatment of ulcerative colitis may involve both medications and surgery.
  • Ulcerative colitis also can cause inflammation in joints, spine, 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 abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.

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). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's diseases are chronic conditions that can last years to decades. 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.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/16/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Ulcerative Colitis - Symptoms Question: For ulcerative colitis, what were the symptoms and signs you experienced?
Ulcerative Colitis - Treatments Question: What treatment has been effective for your ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis - Diet Question: What dietary or lifestyle changes have you made after your diagnosis of ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative Colitis - Complications Question: What complications of ulcerative colitis have you, a friend, or relative experienced?
Ulcerative Colitis - Surgery Question: What type of surgery did you have for ulcerative colitis? What was the outcome?

Ulcerative Colitis Diet

There is no clinical or scientific evidence that supports the theory that a specialized diet may cause or benefit individuals with ulcerative colitis (UC). However, patients may find that certain foods aggravate symptoms of ulcerative colitis and they should avoid such foods. The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are rectal bleeding, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea. Some people recommend avoiding a high fiber diet (such as raw fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, etc.) in addition to other foods that aggravate symptoms. It may be reasonable to keep a food journal to track what foods aggravate symptoms and foods that don't aggravate symptoms (for example, bananas, white rice, white bread, applesauce, bland soft foods, etc.) Discuss your dietary needs with your treating doctor or a dietician that specializes in ulcerative colitis and diet.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!