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Ulcerative colitis

(UC; Colitis, Ulcerative)

Ulcerative colitis – Definition

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of severe, chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which causes:

  • Inflammation
  • Ulcers
  • Bleeding in the lining of the colon and rectum

Ulcerative colitis – Causes

The exact cause is not known. A virus or bacteria may cause the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.

Ulcerative colitis – Risk Factors

Having a family member with IBD (includes UC and Crohn’s disease) may increase your risk of developing UC.

Ulcerative colitis – Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever

Ulcerative colitis – Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. Your doctor may order tests, such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool test
  • Barium enema
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy

Ulcerative colitis – Treatment

Treatment options may include:

Dietary Changes

Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods that trigger symptoms, such as:

  • Dairy foods (due to lactose intolerance)
  • Highly seasoned foods
  • High-fiber foods

Talk to your doctor to learn more about the types of foods that you should avoid.


There are a range of medicines that may be prescribed, such as:

  • Aminosalicylate medicines (eg, sulfasalazine, mesalamine, olsalazine, balsalazide disodium)
  • Steroid anti-inflammatory medicines (eg, prednisone, methylprednisolone, budesonid)
  • Immune modifier medicines (eg, azathioprine, 6-mercaptopurine, cyclosporine)
  • Biological agents (eg, infliximab, adalimumab)


Medicine may not cure very severe UC. In some cases, your doctor may suggest surgery. This can involve having all or part of the colon removed. Surgery may also be done because UC increases your risk of colon cancer.

Over time, colitis that is not treated or does not respond to treatment can lead to:

  • Arthritis
  • Eye inflammation
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney stones
  • Skin rashes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Colon cancer

If you are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, follow your doctor’s instructions.

Ulcerative colitis – Prevention

There are no guidelines for preventing this condition.

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