Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The inner lining of the rectum and colon become red and swollen (inflamed). The condition also causes small sores (ulcers) to form inside the colon and rectum. UC is a long lasting condition, but affected individuals usually have periods with symptoms (flare ups) and periods without symptoms (remission). Symptoms include stomach pains, cramping, rectal bleeds, diarrhea or pain when passing stool. The cause of this condition is unknown, but some experts believe it is caused by an overreaction by the body’s immune system (autoimmune condition). Genetic and environmental factors are also involved. UC typically affects individuals between 15 and 30 years of age and, in the United States, 20% of UC cases occur under the age of 20 years.
Your doctor may suspect UC after ruling out other causes for your symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, they may order blood tests to look for low blood count (anemia), x-rays and CT scans to image your colon, examine the inside of your colon using a camera (colonoscopy) or examine a stool sample. Although there is no cure, there are various treatment options to help manage the symptoms of this condition. Medications may be prescribed to reduce the inflammation or decrease the response from your immune system. Nutritional supplements may also help. If severe enough, surgery may be needed to remove part of your colon. If you have been diagnosed with UC, talk with your doctor to decide which treatment option is best for you. Support groups are also good resources for support and information.