Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time.
Ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. Depending on which part of the colon is affected, symptoms may include:
- Diarrhea, often with blood or puss
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Rectal pain or bleeding during bowel movements
- Unexplained weight loss
The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Previously, diet and stress were suspected, but now doctors know these may aggravate, but don't cause colitis. When your body tries to fight off a virus or bacterium, an abnormal response causes the immune system to attack cells in the digestive tract. Some risk factors may include age (colitis often begins before age 30) and family history.
Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your medical history, a physical examination and various tests. Following this, your provider will typically evaluate your colon, using a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.
The primary goal in treating ulcerative colitis is to help patients regulate their immune system better. While there is no known cure for ulcerative colitis and flare ups may recur, a combination of treatment options can help you stay in control of your disease and maintain a high quality of life.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis and other IBDs can include medication, lifestyle and diet changes, and sometimes surgical procedures to repair or remove affected portions of your GI tract.