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Ulcerative Colitis

(UC; Colitis, Ulcerative)
  • Definition

    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
    Ulcerative Colitis
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Causes

    The exact cause is unknown. A virus or bacteria may cause the immune system to overreact and damage the colon and rectum.
  • Risk Factors

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

    UC may cause:
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal cramps and pain
    • Rectal bleeding
    • Anemia
    • Weight loss
    • Fatigue, weakness
    • Nausea
    • Fever
    • Skin rashes
    • Arthritis
    • Eye inflammation, such as uveitis
    Intestinal complications of UC may include:
    • Perforation
    • Fistula—abnormal passageway between 2 bodily structures
    • Obstruction
    • 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:
  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Testing may include:
  • Treatment

    Treatment options may include:
    Dietary Changes
    Your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain foods, such as:
    • Dairy (due to lactose intolerance)
    • Alcohol
    • Red and processed meats
    • Refined sugar
    • Saturated fat
    Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what foods may work best for you.
    Medications
    There are a range of medications that may be prescribed, such as:
    • Aminosalicylates
    • Steroid anti-inflammatory medications
    • Immune modifiers
    • Biological agents
    Surgery
    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.
  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.
  • RESOURCES

    Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America http://www.ccfa.org

    Gastro—American Gastroenterological Society http://www.gastro.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology http://www.cag-acg.org

    Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada http://www.ccfc.ca

    References

    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.

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