(UC; Colitis, Ulcerative)
DefinitionUlcerative 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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CausesThe exact cause is unknown. A virus or bacteria may cause the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.
Risk FactorsHaving a family member with IBD (includes UC and Crohn's disease) may increase your risk of developing UC.
SymptomsUC may cause:
- Abdominal cramps and pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss
- Fatigue, weakness
- Skin rashes
- Eye inflammation, such as uveitis
- 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
DiagnosisThe doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Testing may include:
TreatmentTreatment options may include:
Dietary ChangesYour doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods, such as:
- Dairy (due to lactose intolerance)
- Red and processed meats
- Refined sugar
- Saturated fat
MedicationsThere are a range of medications that may be prescribed, such as:
- Steroid anti-inflammatory medications
- Immune modifiers
- Biological agents
SurgerySurgery 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)
PreventionThere are no current guidelines for preventing UC.
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America
Gastro—American Gastroenterological Society
The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada
D'Haens GR, Sartor RB, et al. Future directions in inflammatory bowel disease management. 2014;8(8):726-734.
Richman S, Schub T. Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated August 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 19, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.
Wedlake L, Slack N, et al. Fiber in the treatment and maintenance of inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2014;20(3):576-586.
What is ulcerative colitis? Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America website. Available at: www.ccfa.org/what-are-crohns-and-colitis/what-is-ulcerative-colitis. Accessed September 30, 2014.
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 07/23/2014