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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
    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.
    There are a range of medications that may be prescribed, such as:
    • Aminosalicylates
    • 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.
    Fecal Transplantation
    Fecal transplantation may be used to treat UC.
  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines for preventing UC.

    American Gastroenterological Society

    Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America


    The Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

    Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of Canada


    D'Haens GR, Sartor RB, Silverberg MS, Petersson J, Rutgeerts P. 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: Updated August 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    Ulcerative colitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 19, 2014. Accessed September 30, 2014.

    Wedlake L, Slack N, Andreyev HJ, Whelan K. 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: Accessed September 30, 2014.

    8/31/2015 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance Update Moayyedi P, Surette MG, Kim PT, et al. Fecal microbiota transplantation induces remission in patients with active ulcerative colitis in a randomized controlled trial. Gastroenterology. 2015;149(1):102-109.

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