Test Your Colitis IQ

Confused by ulcerative colitis? Take our true/false quiz to boost your UC smarts.

From the WebMD Archives

Confused by ulcerative colitis (UC)? No surprise there; it can be a bewildering disease, sometimes easily confused with other gastrointestinal troubles. On top of that, symptoms can disappear for months or even years, then return for no apparent reason. New treatments and strategies, though, can help you take control. Test your UC smarts: Are the following statements true or false?

1. Ulcerative colitis is also known as Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. All affect the digestive system and cause inflammation.

True or False

False. These three digestive disorders share some symptoms, which is why they are often confused with one another, but they are separate diseases.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease of the colon (also called the large intestine) and rectum that causes inflammation and ulcers of the intestinal wall, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

Crohn’s disease is also an inflammatory bowel disease with similar symptoms, but it can affect any part of the digestive tract. Irritable bowel syndrome is not an inflammatory bowel disease. It is a milder disorder without damage or inflammation of the intestinal lining.

2. You are more likely to develop UC if a close relative has it.

True or False

True. Ulcerative colitis doesn’t always run in families, but genetics might play a role. Statistics vary, but studies show that about 10% to 30% of people with UC have at least one close family member with it. Ashkenazi Jews are also slightly more likely to develop the disease.

3. Ulcerative colitis is easy to diagnose. A doctor can tell if you have it
simply by carefully listening to you describe your symptoms.

True or False

False. Since other digestive diseases or an infection can cause similar symptoms, diagnosing UC is a multistep process that starts with a physical exam and a series of tests, which usually includes blood tests and a stool sample. These are followed by an evaluation of the colon using one of two tests, a sigmoidoscopy or a colonoscopy.

4. There is no cure for UC. If you have it, you must learn to live with it.


True or False

False. Effective treatments can help you manage symptoms and control the disease. Medications can reduce inflammation, quell a sudden attack, and keep the disease in remission, preventing flare-ups. Anti-diarrhea and pain medications can also be used to treat symptoms. Drugs for treating inflammation include steroids, aminosalicylates, immunomodulators, and biologics.

Coping strategies, such as identifying foods that aggravate symptoms and reducing stress, can also be helpful, but no one thing works for everyone. A good way to find tips is to join a support group.

5. You can take action as soon as flare-up symptoms occur.

True or False

True. Even though symptoms can come and go, work with your doctor to find the best way to control flares. If they occur, you can take action immediately to find relief.

6. Eating particular foods does not cause UC, but may worsen symptoms.
 True  False

True. A common misconception is that certain foods, such as fried or spicy items, cause UC. Not true. However, people with ulcerative colitis may notice more symptoms with certain foods, especially during a flare-up. Many people keep a food diary to help identify individual triggers.

7. Stress does not cause UC, but it can worsen symptoms.

True or False

True. There is no evidence that stress causes UC, but being under stress can contribute to symptoms. People under stress can also get run down, and this, too, can aggravate the symptoms.

8. Most people with UC eventually will need to have their colon removed.

True or False

False. For most people, treatment can control UC. But up to about a third of people with UC may have to undergo surgery at some point if they develop severe symptoms that are difficult to control, serious complications, or a precancerous condition. Removing the colon, however, does completely cure UC.

9. Most people who have UC eventually will develop colon cancer.

True or False

False. Having UC or Crohn’s disease increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, but most people (more than 90%) with inflammatory bowel disease don’t develop cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that people with UC and Crohn’s have a screening colonoscopy eight years after diagnosis if the entire large intestine is involved, and 12 to 15 years after diagnosis if only the left part of it is affected. Follow-up colonoscopy screening should occur every one to two years after that.


WebMD Magazine Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 28, 2011



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