A colon with several inflamed areas

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that primarily affects the digestive tract, but can also have an impact on other parts of the body. It can cause symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and an urgent need to empty the bowels. Symptoms can cycle through periods of remission and active disease.

Symptoms may differ from person to person, which can make diagnosis challenging. There are several medications that can treat ulcerative colitis.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes ulcerative colitis?

    The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. Factors that may contribute to the condition include genetics, immune response, and environmental triggers. Smoking and certain medications, such as antibiotics and birth control pills, may also play a role in triggering the condition.

  • Is it possible to cure ulcerative colitis permanently?

    Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease for which there is no known cure. Symptoms seem to flare up and then go into remission off and on throughout a person’s life. Approximately 10% of people never experience another flare-up after the first one, but it is thought that in these cases, the diagnosis may have been incorrect.

  • Is ulcerative colitis an autoimmune disease?

    Yes. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system is triggered by something, such as bacteria or a virus. It goes into normal “attack” mode to eliminate the foreign invader, but instead of going back to normal, the immune system continues to attack other areas of the body. In ulcerative colitis, it is the intestine that is attacked.

  • What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

    Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, and an urgent need to empty the bowels. Symptoms tend to cycle through periods of remission and active disease. Diagnosing ulcerative colitis can be challenging, as symptoms may vary from person to person.

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Page Sources
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  1. Lynch WD, Hsu R. Colitis, Ulcerative. [Updated 2018 Nov 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-.

Additional Reading