Medical Definition of Proctitis, ulcerative

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Proctitis, ulcerative: Ulcerative colitis that is limited to the rectum. Ulcerative colitis itself is a relatively common disease involving inflammation of the large intestine (the colon). The cause is unknown. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease and has some similarity to a related disorder, Crohn's disease.

The end of the colon (the rectum) is always involved in ulcerative colitis. When the inflammation is limited to the rectum, as mentioned, it is called ulcerative proctitis. In ulcerative colitis, the inflammation may extend into the upper parts of the colon. When the entire colon is involved, the terms pancolitis or universal colitis are used.

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis include crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea, and intermittent rectal bleeding. Ulcerative colitis characteristically waxes and wanes. Many patients experience long remissions, even without medication. Ulcerative colitis may mysteriously resolve ("burn out") after a long history of symptoms.

Direct visualization (proctosigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) with sampling of the lining of the bowel is the most accurate diagnostic test. Especially in new cases, infections and other diseases that can mimic ulcerative colitis have to be considered and excluded.

Long-standing ulcerative colitis increases the risk for colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis can also be associated with inflammation in joints, spine, skin, eyes, the liver and its bile ducts.

The treatment of ulcerative colitis involves medications and/or surgery. Since inflammatory bowel disease is currently an area of active and productive research, new treatments are anticipated which, it is hoped, will be of value in ulcerative colitis.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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