Ulcerative colitis: symptoms, risk factors and treatment

ulcerative colitis prevention

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that results in inflammation and ulcers of the colon and rectum. It is an inflammatory bowel disease that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis produces tiny sores called ulcers on the lining of your colon. It usually begins in the rectum and spreads upward. It can involve your entire colon.

The primary symptoms of active disease are abdominal pain and diarrhea mixed with blood. Weight loss, fever, and anaemia may also occur. Often, symptoms come on slowly and can range from mild to severe. Ulcerative colitis is closely related to another condition of inflammation of the intestines called Crohn’s disease. Together, they are frequently referred to as inflammatory bowel disease.

There’s no cure yet, and people usually have symptom flare-ups off and on for life. The right treatments can help you keep a handle on the disease, though.

Causes of ulcerative colitis

The actual cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown. Diet and stress were previously suspected, but now researchers know that these factors rather precipitate but don’t cause ulcerative colitis. So far, research hasn’t discovered one clear cause for Ulcerative colitis.

However, a possible cause is an immune system malfunction. When your immune system tries to fight off an invading micro-organisms, an abnormal immune response causes the immune system to attack the cells in the digestive tract, too.


The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrheoa. There might be some pus in your stools, too.

ulcerative colitis cause
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Other problems include:

  • Abdominal cramps and pain
  • Urgency to move bowel
  • Not feeling for food
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Pain in the joints
  • Eye pain when you look at a bright light
  • Low haemoglobin levels called anaemia
  • Skin sores
  • Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your colon after you use the washroom

Types of ulcerative colitis

The different types of ulcerative colitis are classified according to the location and the extent of inflammation:

ulcerative colitis types
Types of ulcerative colitis

Firstly, Ulcerative proctitis

Inflammation is confined to the area closest to the anus (rectum), and rectal bleeding may be the only sign of the disease. This form of ulcerative colitis tends to be the mildest.

Secondly, Proctosigmoiditis

Inflammation involves the rectum and sigmoid colon (lower end of the colon). Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrheoa, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the bowels in spite of the urge to do so (tenesmus).

Thirdly, Left-sided colitis

Inflammation extends from the rectum up through the sigmoid and descending colon. Signs and symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and pain on the left side, and unintended weight loss.

Additionally, Pancolitis

Pancolitis often affects the entire colon and causes bouts of bloody diarrhea that may be severe, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue, and significant weight loss.

Finally, Fulminant ulcerative colitis.

This rare form of colitis affects the entire colon and causes severe pain, profuse diarrhea, bleeding, fever and inability to eat.

Diagnostic tests

Your doctor will use different tests to tell if you have ulcerative colitis.

Firstly, blood tests can show if you have anaemia or inflammation.

Additionally, stool sample tests can help your doctor rule out an infection or parasite in your colon. They can also show if there is blood in your stool that you can’t see.

Furthermore, flexible sigmoidoscopy lets a doctor look at the lower part of your colon. He will put a bendable tube into your lower colon through your bottom. The tube has a small light and camera on the end. Your doctor might also use a small tool to take a piece of the lining of your lower colon. This is called a biopsy. A specialist will look at the sample under a microscope.

Moreover, colonoscopy is the same process as flexible sigmoidoscopy, only your doctor will look at your whole colon, not just the lower part. He may spray a blue dye inside your colon during a colonoscopy.

Finally, X-rays are less common for diagnosing the disease, but your doctor may want you to have one in special cases.


Ulcerative colitis treatment has two main goals. The first is to ease your symptoms and give your colon a chance to heal. The second is to prevent more flare-ups. You may need a mix of diet changes, medication, or surgery to reach those goals.


Food doesn’t cause ulcerative colitis, but some types can make your symptoms worse. You might find that soft, bland food doesn’t bother you as much as spicy or high-fiber dishes. If you can’t digest the sugar in milk called lactose, avoid dairy products. To make sure you get enough vitamins and nutrients from your meals and snacks, your doctor may recommend a high-protein, high-calorie eating plan that is low in fiber.


  • Antibiotics to fight infections and let your large intestine heal.
  • Medicine to lower inflammation in your colon and control your symptoms. You may start by taking one type, called aminosalicylates. If those don’t work or your symptoms are more severe, your doctor may prescribe another type of anti-inflammatory drug, a corticosteroid.
  • Meds to help stop your immune system’s attack on your colon
  • Biologics are drugs made from proteins in living cells instead of chemicals. They are for people with more severe ulcerative colitis.


If other treatments don’t work or your Ulcerative colitis is severe, you might need surgery to remove your colon (colectomy).

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At felclinic.com we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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