Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the colon which occurs episodically. The inflammation of the colon mucosa usually originates from the rectum; however, it can spread to the entire colon. Episodes of slimy or bloody diarrhoea accompanied by stomach cramps are typical symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The disease is treated with anti-inflammatory medication. Surgery is sometimes necessary in very serious cases or if complications arise.

Like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. In contrast to Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis only affects the colon, and the inflammation is restricted to the colon mucosa. The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Different factors such as genetic predisposition, infections and immune reactions very likely play a role in the occurrence of ulcerative colitis. The disease can occur at any age and affects men and women more or less the same.

Ulcerative colitis is episodic inflammation of the colon mucosa with the formation of ulcers that often bleed. Blood in the stool should always checked by a doctor.  Inflammation of the colon causes bloody or slimy diarrhoea, stomach pain and abdominal cramps. These symptoms may sometimes be accompanied by fever, skin changes, joint pain or eye infections.

The diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is made on the basis of the patient’s medical history, symptoms and with the help of different examinations. The most important examination for ulcerative colitis is a colonoscopy.

Anti-inflammatory medication is used to treat ulcerative colitis, and must often be taken for life. Surgery can be necessary in very serious cases or if complications such as an intestinal obstruction occur. You can find out more about the surgical treatment options in the colon surgery section.

Patients with ulcerative colitis should have regular check-ups as they have an increased risk of developing bowel cancer.