Also Known As: UC, Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis (Colitis ulcerosa, UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) . Ulcerative colitis is a form of colitis, a disease of the colon (large intestine), that includes characteristic ulcers, or open sores. The main symptom of active disease is usually constant diarrhea mixed with blood, of gradual onset. IBD is often confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a troublesome, but much less serious, condition. Ulcerative colitis has similarities to Crohn's disease, another form of IBD. Ulcerative colitis is an intermittent disease, with periods of exacerbated symptoms, and periods that are relatively symptom-free. Although the symptoms of ulcerative colitis can sometimes diminish on their own, the disease usually requires treatment to go into remission. Ulcerative colitis occurs in 35â€“100 people for every 100,000 in the United States, or less than 0.1% of the population. The disease is more prevalent in northern countries of the world, as well as in northern areas of individual countries or other regions. Although ulcerative colitis has no known cause, there is a presumed genetic component to susceptibility. The disease may be triggered in a susceptible person by environmental factors. Although dietary modification may reduce the discomfort of a person with the disease, ulcerative colitis is not thought to be caused by dietary factors. Ulcerative colitis is treated as an autoimmune disease. Treatment is with anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppression, and biological therapy targeting specific components of the immune response. Colectomy (partial or total removal of the large bowel through surgery) is occasionally necessary, and is considered to be a cure for the disease.
The clinical presentation of ulcerative colitis depends on the extent of the disease process. Patients usually present with diarrhea mixed with blood and mucus, of gradual onset that persists for an extended period (weeks). They may also have weight loss and blood on rectal examination. The chronic loss of blood from the GI tract leads to increased rates of anaemia. The disease may be accompanied with different degrees of abdominal pain, from mild discomfort to painful bowel movements or painful abdominal cramping with bowel movements.
Ulcerative colitis is associated with a general inflammatory process that affects many parts of the body. Sometimes these associated extra-intestinal symptoms are the initial signs of the disease, such as painful, arthritic knees in a teenager and may be seen in adults also. The presence of the disease may not be confirmed immediately, however, until the onset of intestinal manifestations.