- Signs & Symptoms
- Potential Causes
- Serious Complications
- Treatment Options
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which abnormal reactions of the immune system cause inflammation and ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine (colon and rectum). IBD includes conditions that cause chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT), with UC and Crohn’s disease as the two most common types.
Although UC can occur at any age, it is generally more likely to develop in people between 15 and 30 years of age. Though the exact cause of UC is unknown, studies have suggested that these factors play a role in developing the condition:
- Abnormal immune response and gut microbiome (bacteria, viruses and fungi that help with digestion)
- Environmental factors, including diet
What is pancolitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is classified into various types depending on the part of the colon involved. When the entire large intestine is inflamed, it is called pancolitis (pan: entire; colitis: inflammation of the colon).
Although commonly associated with UC, other causes of pancolitis are as follows:
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Infections such as Clostridium difficile colitis
Other types of UC are as follows:
- Proctitis: Inflammation limited to the rectum
- Proctosigmoiditis: Inflammation in the rectum and sigmoid colon
- Left-sided colitis: When inflammation stretches from the rectum to the portion of the colon on the left side of your body
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis and pancolitis?
Because pancolitis is a type of ulcerative colitis (UC), symptoms, complications and treatment of both are generally the same.
Signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis and pancolitis may include:
What are the causes of ulcerative colitis and pancolitis?
Although the exact causes of ulcerative colitis (UC) and pancolitis are unknown, the following risk factors and triggers are probably involved in aggravating the diseases:
- Positive family history
- Age (Although it may be seen in any age group, it commonly develops before 30 years of age)
- Ethnicity (more common in Caucasians than in other ethnic populations)
- Stressful life
- An unhealthy diet rich in fatty and spicy foods
- Autoimmune diseases
What are the serious complications of ulcerative colitis and pancolitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) and pancolitis can carry the following serious complications:
What is the treatment of ulcerative colitis and pancolitis?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) and pancolitis are mainly managed with medications or surgery, which could include the following:
- Doctors give anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids and 5-aminosalicylates to reduce bowel inflammation.
- Immunosuppressants can be given to reduce autoantibodies harming the gut wall.
- Doctors may give biologics, which are drugs that target the inflammation-causing proteins.
- They may recommend symptomatic management such as medications for diarrhea, cramps and anemia.
- Doctors surgically remove the severely inflamed regions of the colon in a surgery called colectomy.
Lifestyle changes are needed to reduce the severity of disease progression, such as:
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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.
IBS vs. IBD: Differences and Similarities
IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) are both problems with the digestive tract (gastrointestinal or GI tract), but they are not the same disease. IBS is a functional disorder (a problem with the way the GI tract functions), and IBD is a disease that causes chronic prolonged inflammation of the GI tract, that can lead to ulcers and other problems that may require surgery. The most common forms of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, or UC.
Researchers do not know the exact cause of either disease, but they believe that IBS may be caused and triggered by a variety of factors (foods, stress, and the nervous system of the GI tract), while IBD may be genetic or due a problem with the immune system.
Common symptoms of both diseases are an urgent need to have a bowel movement, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping.
There are differences between the signs and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, for example, symptoms unique to IBD are:
- Joint pain or soreness
- Skin changes
- Rectal bleeding
- Eye redness or pain
- Unintentional weight loss
- Feeling tired
Symptoms unique to irritable bowel syndrome include:
- Sexual problems
- Abdominal bloating
- Whitish mucous in the stool
- Changes in bowel movements and in the way stools look
- An urgent need to urinate
- Urinating frequently
Treatment for IBS is with diet recommendations from a doctor or nutritionist, medication, and lifestyle changes like stress management and avoiding foods that trigger the condition. Treatments for IBD depend upon the type of disease, its symptoms, and health of the patient. Surgery may be necessary for some individuals.
Brown, AC, et al. "Existing Dietary Guidelines for Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis." Medscape.
Lehrer, J. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Medscape. Updated: Apr 04, 2017.
Rowe, W. "Inflammatory Bowel Disease." Medscape. Updated: Jun 17, 2016.
Romanowski, A, MS, RD. "Matching the Right Diet to the Right Patient." Medscape. Jan 27, 2017.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Diet
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a name for a group of diseases in which there is inflammation of the digestive tract (gastrointestinal tract). Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (UC) are the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. While there is no specific recommended diet for a person with IBD, doctors and specialists recommend a low-residue (low fiber) diet for people with inflammatory bowel disease. Nutritionists, registered dieticians, and other health-care professionals can recommend specific foods, create meal plans, and recommend vitamins and other nutritional supplements.
Foods to avoid with IBD
- Examples of foods to avoid that may trigger symptoms include if you have IBD include products alcohol, diary products, fatty, fried, and spicy foods, beans, and creamy sauces.
Foods to eat with IBD
- Examples of a low-residue (low-fiber) diet that may help relieve symptoms after a flares of the disease are plain cereals, canned fruit, rice, oatmeal, and bananas.
IBD SlideshowWhat is inflammatory bowel disease? IBD can include Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Learn more about testing, treatments, and the home care needed to manage inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are Crohn's disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). The intestinal complications of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis differ because of the characteristically dissimilar behaviors of the intestinal inflammation in these two diseases.
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 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.