What is ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the colon (large intestine). Ulcers (sores) form on the inner lining of your colon and cause bleeding and inflammation.
What increases my risk for ulcerative colitis?
The cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. The following may increase your risk:
- A family history of ulcerative colitis.
- A medical condition or stress that prevents your immune system from functioning well.
- A virus or bacteria that caused inflammation in your colon.
- Nonsonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) pain or arthritis medicine.
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
- Abdominal pain.
- Bloody diarrhea.
- Fatigue and pale skin.
- Poor appetite and weight loss.
- Loss of bowel movement control.
- Slow growth and development in children.
How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
- A bowel movement sample may show the germ causing your illness. This helps your healthcare provider learn what medicine is best to treat you.
- A barium enema is an X-ray of the colon. A tube is put into your anus, and a liquid called barium is put through the tube. Barium is used so that healthcare providers can see your colon better on the X-ray film.
- Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are procedures used to help your healthcare provider see the inside of your colon. Your provider will use a flexible tube with a small light and camera on the end. During a sigmoidoscopy, he or she will only look at your rectum and lower colon. During a colonoscopy, he or she will look at the full length of your colon. He or she may remove a small amount of tissue from the colon for a biopsy.
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
- Medicines may be given to help decrease inflammation or control your immune system.
- Surgery may be needed to remove part or all of your colon. Ask about the different kinds of surgery that can be done to help your symptoms.
How can I prevent colitis?
- Clean thoroughly. Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for 20 seconds before and after you handle food. Wash your hands after you use the bathroom, change a diaper, or touch an animal. Rinse fruits and vegetables in running water. Clean cutting boards, knives, countertops, and other areas where you prepare food before and after you cook. Wash sponges and dishtowels weekly in hot water.
- Cook food all the way through. Cook eggs until the yolks are firm. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat is heated to a temperature that will kill bacteria. Do not eat raw or undercooked chicken, turkey, seafood, or meat.
- Store food properly. Refrigerate or freeze fruits and vegetables, cooked foods, and leftovers.
- Drink safe water. Drink only treated water. Do not drink water from ponds or lakes, or from swimming pools that do not contain chlorine. Drink bottled water when traveling.
Preparing for Care
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have sudden trouble breathing.
- You have a fast heart rate, fast breathing, or are too dizzy to stand up.
- You have severe abdominal pain.
- Your vomit has blood in it or looks like coffee grounds.
- You see blood in your bowel movement.
When should I contact my healthcare provider?
- You have a fever, chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
- You have abdominal pain that does not go away or gets worse after you take medicine.
- Your abdomen is swollen.
- You lose weight without trying.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.