What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is different from Crohn’s disease, which is also an inflammatory bowel disease. They have similar symptoms, but Crohn's disease can affect any part of your gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus. Ulcerative colitis only affects your rectum and colon.
Causes of ulcerative colitis
Doctors aren’t sure of the exact cause of ulcerative colitis. But some factors may play a part:
Ulcerative colitis may run in some families. Experts say that if your sibling has ulcerative colitis, you’ll have a higher risk of developing the disease too.
There are microbes such as fungi, bacteria, and viruses, in your digestive tract. These help with digestion, and are known as your microbiome. Researchers say that people who have inflammatory bowel disease may have different microbiomes compared to healthy people.
Immune system reaction
Another possible factor for ulcerative colitis may be an abnormal immune reaction. When your immune system tries to fight off bacteria or viruses, it instead attacks cells in your digestive tract.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis symptoms may vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis
Your doctor will conduct a physical exam and take your medical history. They may also run some tests, including:
- Blood tests
- Stool studies
- Endoscopy. This lets your doctor see your entire colon using a flexible lighted tube.
- Biopsy. Your doctor may take a small sample of your tissue to test it in a lab.
- Chromoendoscopy. During the endoscopy, your doctor may spray a blue liquid dye to highlight changes in your intestinal lining.
Ulcerative colitis treatment
The main goal of treatment is to help you manage your symptoms and immune system. While there's no known ulcerative colitis cure, these treatment options can help you manage your symptoms and let you lead a full life.
Treatment involves either medication or surgery. Your doctor will recommend treatment based on how severe your condition is, and how much of your large intestine is affected.
While medication won't cure the disease, it can help control your symptoms. With medication, you can have long periods without symptoms (remission). During remission, you should continue to take medication and see your doctor regularly.
Medications for ulcerative colitis include:
- Aminosalicylates like balsalazide, olsalazine, sulfasalazine, and mesalamine. These drugs can be given by mouth, through your rectum, or as an enema.
- Corticosteroids. As corticosteroids may have serious side effects, they’re not given long term.
- Immunosuppressants. These drugs decrease your immune system’s activity, but effects may take one to three months to be seen.
- Biologics, which are medicines created from living organisms. These include infliximab, vedolizumab, and ustekinumab.
Your doctor may recommend surgery if you have:
- Colorectal cancer
- Precancerous cells that increase your colorectal cancer risk
- Life-threatening complications, such as a hole in your large intestine or severe rectal bleeding
- Symptoms that don’t stop or improve even after medication
- Symptoms that improve only with corticosteroids. These drugs can cause serious side effects when used long-term.
The standard surgery for ulcerative colitis is the removal of your colon and rectum. The surgery will also change how your body stores and removes stool. There are a few different ways of doing this.
In an ileostomy, your surgeon will attach the end of your small intestine (ileum) to an opening in your abdomen (stoma). A bag will be attached to that opening and worn outside your body (ostomy pouch). This pouch collects your stool.
In an ileoanal reservoir surgery, the surgeon will create a small pouch from your ileum and attach it to your anus. Stool will collect in the pouch and pass out through your anus.
Living with ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong disease with no known cure. But studies show that people with ulcerative colitis tend to have the same life expectancy as people without ulcerative colitis. Most people with this disease are able to lead full lives.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Family Physician: "Ulcerative Colitis."
Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation: "Living with Ulcerative Colitis," "Overview of Ulcerative Colitis," "Types of Ulcerative Colitis," "Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis and Testing."
Frontiers in Medicine: "Gut Microbiota and Metabolic Specificity in Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease."
Gastroenterology Research and Practice: "The Immunological Basis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Merck Manual: "Ulcerative Colitis."
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Symptoms & Causes of Ulcerative Colitis," "Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis."
Top Can Ulcerative Colitis Be Healed Related Articles
Crohn's Disease vs. Ulcerative Colitis (UC)Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are diseases that cause inflammation of part of or the entire digestive tract (GI). Crohn's affects the entire GI tract (from the mouth to the anus), while ulcerative colitis or ulcerative colitis only affects the large and small intestine and ilium. Researchers do not know the exact cause of either disease. About 20% of people with Crohn's disease also have a family member with the disease. Researchers believe that certain factors may play a role in causing UC. Both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are a type of inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD.
Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis both have similar symptoms and signs, for example, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, episodic and/or persistent diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal bleeding, bloody stools, joint pain and soreness, eye redness, or pain. Symptoms unique to Crohn’s disease include anemia and skin changes. Symptoms of unique to ulcerative colitis include, certain rashes, an urgency to defecate (have a bowel movement). Doctors diagnose both diseases with similar tests and procedures. While there is no cure for either disease, doctors and other health care professionals can help you treat disease flares, and manage your Crohn's or ulcerative colitis with medication, diet, nutritional supplements, and/or surgery.
How Long Does an Ulcerative Colitis Flare-Up Last?An ulcerative colitis flare-up can last a few days or a few weeks and then be followed by a remission that lasts for months or even years. How long a flare-up lasts depends on the severity of the disease, triggers and medication compliance.
Is Pancolitis the Same as Ulcerative Colitis?Pancolitis is a form of ulcerative colitis (UC) that inflames the entire large intestine. Living with pancolitis often requires medical treatment and lifestyle changes.
Is Ulcerative Colitis an Autoimmune Disease?Ulcerative colitis (UC) is considered to be an autoimmune disease. With autoimmune disorders, your immune system goes awry and attacks your own body instead of defending it from infections and illnesses.
Is Ulcerative Colitis Curable?Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the inner lining of the large intestine (large bowel or colon) leading to erosion and ulcers. It is also associated with various manifestations outside of the colon, such as inflammation of the eyes, joints, skin, and lungs. Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong illness with no specific cause or cure. Patients have repeated cycles of flare-ups and disappearance of the disease.
What Is the Life Expectancy of Someone With Ulcerative Colitis?Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the inner lining of the large intestine (large bowel) leading to erosion and ulcers. It is a lifelong illness with no specific cause or cure.
Ulcerative ColitisUlcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Ulcerative colitis is closely related to Crohn's disease, and together they are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease. Treatment depends upon the type of ulcerative colitis diagnosed.
Ulcerative Colitis QuizWhat is ulcerative colitis and what risks are associated with suffering over the long term? Take this Ulcerative Colitis Quiz to learn causes, symptoms, and treatments for this painful digestive disorder.
Ulcerative Colitis Diet Plan
An ulcerative colitis diet plan can help a person with the disease avoid foods and drinks that trigger flares. There also are foods that can soothe ulcerative colitis symptoms during a flare. Types of ulcerative colitis plans include
- a high-calorie diet,
- a lactose-free diet,
- a low-fat diet,
- a low-fiber diet (low-residue diet), or
- a low-salt diet.
Self-management of ulcerative colitis using healthy lifestyle habits and a nutrient rich diet can be effective in management of the disease. Learn what foods to avoid that aggravate, and what foods help symptoms of the disease and increase bowel inflammation.
Ulcerative ColitisUlcerative Colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and is slightly different than Crohn's disease. Learn the causes, symptoms, diet, and treatment options associated with ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative Colitis SurgeryUlcerative colitis surgery is performed on approximately 25% to 40% of people with the disease. There are various types of ulcerative colitis. Complications of the surgery include pouch failure, intestinal blockage from adhesions, inflammation of the pouch, and more watery and frequent bowel movements.
What Does Your Stool Look Like With Ulcerative Colitis?Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease that involves the inner lining of the large bowel. It causes abdominal pain and bleeds due to erosions and ulcers all over the large intestine and rectum.