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Welcome to our health education library. The information shared below is provided to you as an educational and informational source only and is not intended to replace a medical examination or consultation, or medical advice given to you by a physician or medical professional.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?¿Qu© es la colitis ulcerosa?

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is swelling and irritation in the rectum and colon. It is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). No one knows what causes ulcerative colitis, but symptoms can be treated. People with ulcerative colitis can lead full, active lives.

Cutaway view of colon and rectum
Ulcerative colitis affects the inside layers of the rectum and colon.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Symptoms are often related to bowel movements. Symptoms include:

  • Frequent, loose bowel movements

  • Blood and pus in stools, or rectal bleeding

  • Feeling of incomplete bowel movement

  • Urgency (feeling that you need to have a bowel movement right away)

  • Severe straining with bowel movements

  • Joint pain

  • Rectal pain that comes and goes

Your Treatment Options

Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. They may include medications, lifestyle changes, surgery, or a combination of these. Treatment helps you stay as active as you want to be. Keep in mind that ulcerative colitis is considered chronic. That means it usually can't be cured. But treatment may ease symptoms. And even though you have a chronic illness, you can still live a full life.

Medications

Your doctor will try to find the medications that work best for you. These may include:

  • A type of anti-inflammatory medication (called 5-ASA compounds) to help reduce intestinal swelling and discomfort

  • Corticosteroids to help reduce inflammation (swelling, irritation)

  • Antibiotics to fight bacteria that may lead to infection

  • Medications to control your body's immune system

Lifestyle Changes

  • Certain foods can worsen symptoms. You may need to change what you eat. Avoid any food that makes your symptoms worse. These foods vary from person to person. But high-fiber foods (such as fresh vegetables) and high-fat foods (such as dairy products and red meat) cause symptoms in many people. Keep track of foods that cause you problems.

  • To a lesser degree, stress also can worsen symptoms. Reducing stress may help. Techniques like relaxation exercises, meditation, and deep breathing can help you control stress. Your healthcare provider may be able to tell you more about these.

If Surgery Is Needed

Surgery may help control or even cure ulcerative colitis by removing a severely affected part of the colon. If this is an option for you, your doctor can give you more information.

Publication Source: American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

Publication Source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Online Source: American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons

Online Source: National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Date Last Reviewed: 2005-10-14T00:00:00-06:00

Date Last Modified: 2005-10-14T00:00:00-06:00

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