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Ulcerative Colitis

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease of the colon (large intestine). Inflammation and ulcers form on the inner lining of your colon. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30 years old.

Abdominal Organs

What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

  • Diarrhea that may have mucus or blood
  • Bleeding from your rectum
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • Abdominal tenderness and bloating
  • Fever, poor appetite, weight loss, fatigue

How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?

  • A rectal exam may show blood. Your healthcare provider will put a gloved finger inside your rectum. He or she will feel for inflammation or blockage.
  • A CT or MRI may show a blockage, an abscess, inflammation, or abnormal connection. You may be given contrast liquid to help your colon show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Endoscopy is a procedure used to find the cause of your ulcerative colitis. An endoscope is a bendable tube with a light and camera on the end. A small sample of tissue and bowel movement may be removed. These are sent to a lab for testing.

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

  • Medicines may be given to help decrease inflammation or control your immune system. You may need to take more than 1 medicine to treat your ulcerative colitis.
  • 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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

How can I manage my ulcerative colitis?

  • Do not take NSAID medicines , including aspirin and ibuprofen. NSAIDs can cause flare-ups.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to keep your colon healthy. Healthy foods include fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meat, and fish. Do not eat foods that make your symptoms worse. Your healthcare provider may give you vitamins or minerals to improve your nutrition if you have severe ulcerative colitis.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. For most people, water, juice, and milk are good choices. Do not drink alcohol. This can make your symptoms worse.
  • Exercise regularly. Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Any activity is better than none. Even 10 minutes a few times a day would help prevent constipation and help keep your colon healthy.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Manage stress. Stress may slow healing and cause illness. Learn new ways to relax, such as deep breathing.

Call, or have someone call, your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing.
  • You have a fast heart rate, fast breathing, or are too dizzy to stand up.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • 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 call my doctor?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Ulcerative Colitis

Treatment options

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Symptoms and treatments

Further information

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