Ulcerative colitis and
Crohn's disease are the most common types of
inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis affects
only the colon and rectum. Crohn's can affect any part of the digestive tract.
To learn more about Crohn's disease, see the topic
Ulcerative colitis is
a disease that causes
inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the lining of the
large intestine (colon ). It usually affects the lower section (sigmoid colon)
and the rectum. But it can affect the entire colon. In general, the more of the
colon that's affected, the worse the symptoms will be.
The disease can affect
people of any age. But most people who have it are diagnosed before the age of
sure what causes it. They think it might be caused by the
immune system overreacting to normal bacteria in the
digestive tract. Or other kinds of bacteria and viruses may cause it.
You are more likely to get ulcerative colitis if other people in your
family have it.
The main symptoms
- Belly pain or cramps.
from the rectum.
Some people also may have a fever, may not feel hungry,
and may lose weight. In severe cases, people may have diarrhea 10 to 20 times a
The disease can also cause other problems, such as
joint pain, eye problems, or liver disease.
In most people, the
symptoms come and go. Some people go for months or years without symptoms
(remission). Then they will have a flare-up. About 5 to 10 out of 100 people
with ulcerative colitis have symptoms all the time.1
Doctors ask about the symptoms, do a physical exam, and do
a number of tests. Testing can help the doctor rule out other problems that can
cause similar symptoms, such as Crohn's disease,
irritable bowel syndrome, and
Tests that may be done
colonoscopy. In this test, a doctor uses a thin,
lighted tool to look at the inside of your entire colon. At the same time, the
doctor may take a sample (biopsy) of the lining of the
- Blood tests, which look for
infection or inflammation.
- Stool sample testing to look for blood,
infection, and white blood cells.