Understanding Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) distinguished by inflammationImmune response to tissue injury that causes redness, swelling, and pain. of the large intestine (rectum and colon). The innermost lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed, and ulcers may form on the surface. UC can also affect:




Ulcerative colitis vs. Crohn’s disease

Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), but there are some key differences.

Ulcerative colitis

  • Limited to the large intestine (colon and rectum)
  • Occurs in the rectum and colon, involving a part or the entire colon
  • Appears in a continuous pattern
  • Inflammation occurs in innermost lining of the intestine
  • About 30% of people in remission will experience a relapse in the next year

Crohn’s disease

  • Inflammation may develop anywhere in the GI tract from the mouth to the anus
  • Most commonly occurs at the end of the small intestine
  • May appear in patches
  • May extend through entire thickness of bowel wall
  • About 67% of people in remission will have at least 1 relapse over the next 5 years

IBD is not IBS

It’s important not to confuse an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a disorder that affects the muscle contractions of the bowel and is not characterized by intestinal inflammation, nor is it a chronic disease.

Who gets ulcerative colitis?

Up to
20% of people with ulcerative colitis have a blood relative who has IBD of people with UC have a blood relative who has IBD
Ulcerative colitis affects men and women equally Affects men and women equally
Approximately 700,000 people in the United States are affected by ulcerative colitis are affected by ulcerative colitis
Can occur at any time, but most often starts between ages
Ulcerative colitis symptoms range from mild to severe Symptoms range from mild to severe

For a one-page overview of ulcerative colitis for yourself or to share with others, download Ulcerative Colitis 101, A Basic Guide.

And learn about how UC is thought to be a result of an interaction of factors

Inflammation plays a role in your ulcerative colitis symptoms

Ulcerative colitis inflammation may cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, fatigue, weight loss, and other symptoms that vary from person to person and from mild to severe.

Learn about UC symptoms

What are the causes of ulcerative colitis?

The exact cause of UC is not known, but researchers believe ulcerative colitis is caused by a combination of factors that involve genetics, the environment, and an overactive immune system. It is not caused by something you ate or your diet.

Read about UC causes

How do you get diagnosed with ulcerative colitis?

If you have symptoms that could indicate UC, you will probably have a few different tests which may include imaging, blood tests and procedures done to get a diagnosis, as there is no one test that can diagnose ulcerative colitis. To get a diagnosis, it is important to find a doctor, such as a gastroenterologist or another physician who specializes in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

UC diagnosis and testing

There are a variety of different treatments for ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronicContinuing or occurring again and again for a long time., life-long disease that requires ongoing treatment. Categories of drugs for UC treatment include antibiotics, aminosalicylates (5-ASAs), corticosteroids (steroids), immune modifiers (immunomodulators), biologic therapies (biologics) and other oral agents. There are several different medications available to treat it, and surgery (such as an ileostomy) may also be necessary for some patients.

UC treatment options

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