Department of Surgery
About Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is chronic disease that causes inflammation of the lining in the large intestine and rectum.
Like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) because it inflames the lining of that organ. Unlike Crohn's, ulcerative colitis does not spread to the esophagus, stomach, or small intestine.
Ulcerative colitis causes tiny ulcers and small abscesses to form in the colon and rectum. When these growths become inflamed, they cause bloody stool and diarrhea. People who have ulcerative colitis experience occasional flare-ups in which inflammation occurs in the rectum and then spreads to other parts of the colon. These episodes are followed by remissions, in which symptoms disappear. Periods of remission can last from weeks to years.
If your doctor thinks you may have ulcerative colitis, they will refer you to a gastroenterologist for a thorough evaluation to make the diagnosis.
People who have ulcerative colitis are at an increased risk for colon cancer and need to have frequent colonoscopies to check their colons.
Treatments for ulcerative colitis include drug therapy, changes in diet, and/or surgery. While treatments cannot completely cure, they can help you to lead a normal life. See your doctor to seek treatment as soon as you start having problems. If you have severe diarrhea and bleeding, you may have to spend time in a hospital to prevent or treat dehydration, reduce your symptoms, and receive proper nutrition.
When surgery is necessary for ulcerative colitis it can often be performed laparoscopically or through a single incision near your belly button.
Surgery for ulcerative colitis usually involves removing the entire colon and almost the entire rectum, leaving only the anus. Some people can have their intestines put back together using a J-pouch, where others will require a permanent ostomy.