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Ulcerative colitis is the inflammatory bowel disease, causing inflammation and ulcers in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum. This disease can affect anyone but is commonly diagnosed in people of 15 to 30 years old. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition and a life-threatening complication which requires immediate treatment.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary depending on the severity and location of the inflammation. Many people have mild to moderate symptoms which come and go, but few patients experience longer periods of remission. Pain, diarrhea and bleeding from the rectum are the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis. The other symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Joint pains
  • Eye problems
  • Liver disease
  • Inability to defecate, even during urgency
  • Improper growth in children

If any of the above symptoms are seen for longer time, consult the doctor immediately as it is a serious disease which requires immediate treatment.


The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Few researchers believe that it is caused by diet and stress. The other causes of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Immune system- when the body’s immune system has an abnormal response to normal bacteria in the intestine, it may cause ulcerative colitis.
  • Hereditary- ulcerative colitis is commonly seen in people with family members (especially the parents and siblings) affected with the disease.

Risk factors

Ulcerative colitis equally affects men and women. The various risk factors include:

  • Age-people of 30 years old are at higher risk
  • Race or ethnicity-whites and people of Jewish descent are at higher risk
  • Isotretinoin use-this drug used to treat acne believed to be a risk factor of inflammatory bowel disease


Ulcerative colitis if not treated on time may cause various complications like severe dehydration, hole in the colon, liver disease, bone loss, blood clots in the veins and arteries, and increased risk of colon cancer. Patients with ulcerative colitis for more than 8 years are likely to develop colon cancer.


The doctor first asks about the symptoms and performs physical examination. If ulcerative colitis or any other inflammatory disease is suspected, the following tests are recommended to help confirm the diagnosis.

  • Blood test- To check if the patient has anemia, if there are sufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues
  • Colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy – A thin, flexible tube attached with camera is used to view the intestines and entire colon. A sample of tissue is also taken to help confirm the disease.
  • Stool sample testing- To test for the presence of blood, infection (caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites), and white blood cells. White blood cells in the stools indicate ulcerative colitis.
  • Imaging tests- CT scan and MRI scans are performed to look into the entire bowel and the tissues outside the bowel.
  • X-ray- Abdominal X-rays are taken to check if there are serious complications like perforated colon


The aim of treatment is to reduce the symptoms and to avoid remission of the disease. The treatment is different for different people as it depends on the severity and patient condition. The treatment options of ulcerative colitis usually include medications ad surgery.


  • Antibiotics- These drugs are prescribed to relieve amount of drainage and heal fistulas and abscess. Examples include metronidazole, ciprofloxacin.
  • Antiinflammatory drugs- These drugs are prescribed to reduce inflammation. Examples include oral 5-aminosalicylates (sulfasalazine, mesalamine), corticosteroids (prednisone).
  • Immuno suppressants- These drugs target the immune system that is responsible for inflammation. Examples include azathioprine, infliximab, methotrexate, cyclosporins.
  • Other medications- These include drugs that help relieve signs and symptoms. Examples include antidiarrheals (psyllium, methylcellulose), pain relievers (acetaminophen), iron supplements, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D supplements.


Surgery is recommended treatment option when medications fail to treat the disease and in people with severe ulcerative colitis. Strictureplasty is the commonly used surgical technique to treat ulcerative colitis is. In this technique, segment of the intestine is widened that has become too narrow. However, the benefits of surgery are temporary.


There is no particular evidence that eating habits cause ulcerative colitis, however, it may aggravate the symptoms. Therefore, making certain lifestyle changes can help manage the condition.

  • Drinking lots of water in smaller amounts throughout the day
  • Avoiding fatty foods or junk food
  • Lowering intake of lactose containing foods like milk
  • Eating smaller meals many times a day
  • Limiting intake of fiber-containing foods
  • Taking multivitamin and mineral supplements

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