|Other encyclopedia topics:||A-Ag Ah-Ap Aq-Az B-Bk Bl-Bz C-Cg Ch-Co Cp-Cz D-Di Dj-Dz E-Ep Eq-Ez F G H-Hf Hg-Hz I-In Io-Iz J K L-Ln Lo-Lz M-Mf Mg-Mz N O P-Pl Pm-Pz Q R S-Sh Si-Sp Sq-Sz T-Tn To-Tz U V W X Y Z 0-9|
|Contents of this page:|
Alternative Names Return to topInflammatory bowel disease - ulcerative colitis
Definition Return to top
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine and rectum.
Causes Return to top
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. It may affect any age group, although there are peaks at ages 15 - 30 and then again at ages 50 - 70.
The disease usually begins in the rectal area and may eventually extend through the entire large intestine. Repeated swelling (inflammation) leads to thickening of the wall of the intestine and rectum with scar tissue. Death of colon tissue or sepsis may occur with severe disease.
The symptoms vary in severity and may start slowly or suddenly. Many factors can lead to attacks, including respiratory infections or physical stress.
Risk factors include a family history of ulcerative colitis, or Jewish ancestry. The incidence is 10 to 15 out of 100,000 people.
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms that may occur with ulcerative colitis include the following:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor may also order the following blood tests:
Treatment Return to top
The goals of treatment are to:
Hospitalization is often required for severe attacks. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.
Medications that may be used to decrease the number of attacks include:
An intravenous medicine called infliximab has also been shown to improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Surgery to remove the colon will cure ulcerative colitis and removes the threat of colon cancer. Patients may need an ostomy (a surgical opening in the abdominal wall), or a procedure that connects the small intestine to the anus to help the patient gain more normal bowel function.
Surgery is usually for patients who have colitis that does not respond to complete medical therapy, or patients who have serious complications such as:
Support Groups Return to top
Social support can often help with the stress of dealing with illness, and support group members may also have useful tips for finding the best treatment and coping with the condition.
For more information visit the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) web site at www.ccfa.org.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The course of the disease generally varies. Ulcerative colitis may be inactive and then get worse over a period of years. Sometimes ulcerative colitis can progress quickly. A permanent and complete cure is unusual.
The risk of colon cancer increases in each decade after ulcerative colitis is diagnosed.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if you develop persistent abdominal pain, new or increased bleeding, persistent fever, or other symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Call your health care provider if you have ulcerative colitis and your symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.
Prevention Return to top
Because the cause is unknown, prevention is also unknown.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may make symptoms worse.
Due to the risk of colon cancer associated with ulcerative colitis, screening with colonoscopy is recommended.
The American Cancer Society recommends having your first screening:
Have follow-up examinations every 1 - 2 years.
References Return to top
Graham L. AGA reviews the use of corticosteroids, immunomodulators, and infliximab in IBD. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75:410-412.
Moyer MS. Chronic ulcerative colitis in childhood. J Pediatr. 2006;148:325.
Langan RC. Ulcerative colitis: diagnosis and treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2007;76:1323-1330.Update Date: 2/20/2008 Updated by: Christian Stone, MD, Division of Gastroenterology, Washington University in St. Louis, School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.