Ulcerative colitis

A type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation in the rectum and colon — HCA UK can help to relieve your symptoms

About ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammation of part of the gastrointestinal (digestive) tract, usually beginning in the rectum (where faeces are stored) and colon (large intestine). It's one of the two main types of inflammatory bowel disease (the other is Crohn's). UC tends to start in young people and can lead to diarrhoea, stomach cramping and other symptoms.

Need to know

  • Symptoms of ulcerative colitis icon plus

    You may experience:

    • diarrhoea; this is the main symptom, sometimes with blood or mucus
    • cramping, which can be severe and often happens before a bowel movement
    • anaemia, which is possible if you're losing a lot of blood and not eating well
    • tiredness brought on by anaemia, disrupted sleep or ulcerative colitis itself
    • loss of appetite and weight loss
    • feeling generally unwell and feverish
    • problems further up the body, like mouth ulcers and irritated skin

    These symptoms can range from mild to severe. People with ulcerative colitis can go through periods without symptoms called 'remission'. People with longstanding UC are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you, taking a full medical history from you. Depending on your symptoms, they may arrange a colonoscopy at a later date, which involves examining your digestive tract by inserting a flexible tube with a camera at the end (an endoscope) into your large and small intestine. They may also arrange other diagnostic tests. These may include:

    • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computerised Tomography) scans
    • blood and stool tests to show the level of inflammation
  • Potential ulcerative colitis treatment options icon plus

    There isn't a cure for ulcerative colitis but we can offer a range of treatment options that may help to relieve your symptoms and cope with flare-ups. These might include:

    • immunosuppressive drugs to keep symptoms under control during remissionsteroids (an effective short-term treatment)
    • antibiotics for flare-ups or specific infections
    • 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) anti-inflammatory drugs
    • colectomy (surgery to remove part or all of your colon)

    Generally speaking, surgery is only recommended if your symptoms don't respond to drug therapy or if pre-cancerous or colorectal cancer is found during a colonoscopy.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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