Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which causes:
- Inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum
- Ulcers in the lining of the colon and rectum
- Bleeding in the lining of the colon and rectum
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The exact cause is unknown. A virus or bacteria may cause the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.
Having a family member with IBD (includes UC and Crohn's disease ) may increase your risk of developing UC.
UC may cause:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Fatigue, weakness
- Skin rashes
- Eye inflammation, such as uveitis
Intestinal complications of UC may include:
- Fistula—abnormal passageway between 2 bodily structures
- Excess bleeding
- Toxic megacolon—a potentially life-threatening condition when the colon severely expands, which may result in reduced blood flow
Other complications of UC may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may order tests, such as:
Treatment options may include:
Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods, such as:
- Dairy (due to lactose intolerance)
- Red and processed meats
- Refined sugar
- Saturated fat
Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what foods may work best for you.
There are a range of medications that may be prescribed, such as:
- Steroid anti-inflammatory medications
- Immune modifiers
- Biological agents
Surgery involves partial or complete removal of the colon . This may be necessary for:
- An emergency, such as a perforation, excessive bleeding, or life-threatening infection
- Long-term disease that does not respond to medications or other treatment
- Colon cancer—includes confirmed diagnosis or suspicious tissue on examination
- Lack of growth because of nutritional deficiencies (in children)
Surgery for UC is curative and reduces the risk of colon cancer.
There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.
- Daus Mahnke, MD
- Reviewed: 09/2013
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