Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the lining of the large intestine. It is also referred to as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the general name for diseases that cause inflammation in the intestinal tract. Ulcers form where inflammation has killed the cells that usually line the colon, then bleed and produce pus. Inflammation in the colon also causes the colon to empty frequently, resulting in diarrhea.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Rectal pain or bleeding
Risk factors for developing ulcerative colitis include:
- Ethnicity: caucasian; people of Jewish heritage
- Genetics: blood relative with ulcerative colitis or crohn’s disease
When to See a Doctor
Occasional abdominal distress such as cramping, bloating or diarrhea may result from a number of causes and often resolve on their own. If your symptoms seem severe, have not resolved within a few days, or if they persist or recur, it’s time for a thorough evaluation and consultation with a specialist. Screening for ulcerative colitis is not routine and requires the expertise of a physician with special training in the diagnosis and management of diseases of the intestinal tract.
Treatment options for individuals with ulcerative colitis vary and may include the following:
- Medical therapy
- Any combination of the above treatments
The foremost diagnostic "test" for any condition is a thorough exam and consultation with a physician, including a review of your individual and family history. In addition, your physician may recommend any of the following tests or procedures, which may provide further diagnostic value:
- Stool tests
- Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
Ulcerative colitis cannot be prevented and patients should see their physician regularly to develop a plan of care to help manage the symptoms and effects of their disease.
Learn more about ulcerative colitis with the following resources: