• 20 March 2022

Myth Busters: Ulcerative Colitis

Like with any medical condition, there’s a lot of varied information available. It’s important to know what’s true and what’s false with your Ulcerative Colitis (UC).

Myth 1: Ulcerative Colitis is the same as Crohn’s Disease

While both UC and Crohn’s are characterised by inflammation of the intestines (and referred to under the umbrella term Inflammatory Bowel Disease), they are different diseases. The main differences are that Crohn’s disease can appear anywhere in the digestive tract (from the mouth to the anus) but UC is limited to the colon only. Crohn’s can spread through all layers of the bowel wall whereas UC only affects the inner most lining.

Myth 2: Ulcerative Colitis only affects the gut

While the source of inflammation of UC is your colon, there can also be non-gut symptoms as well. This is because inflammation can occur in other parts of the body as well, affecting joints, skin, eyes, and liver.

Myth 3: You can cure Ulcerative Colitis with your diet

Whilst it’s important to review your diet if you suffer from UC, under the instruction of your gastroenterologist and dietitian, this alone won’t cure it. The aim is to identify and avoid trigger foods, to minimise the risk of flares.

Myth 4: Surgery is always required in Ulcerative Colitis

Some people with UC will require all or part of their colon removed, but most people will never get to this point. Keeping up with treatment, including medications and diet changes, is often enough to keep inflammation and symptoms under control.

Myth 5: Having Ulcerative Colitis means you’ll get bowel cancer

It’s true that people with UC (and IBD) are at a higher risk for bowel cancer, but that doesn’t mean that UC equals cancer. To monitor this, you should have more frequent colonoscopies as recommended by your gastroenterologist. Keeping your UC in control helps to reduce your risk compared to someone whose UC is uncontrolled.

Myth 6: Once you feel better you can stop following your treatment plan

The initial aim of UC treatment is to bring it into remission, whereby the inflammation is under control and there are no symptoms. From there, the aim of treatment is to maintain remission and prevent further disease flares.  It may be possible to reduce medications at some point (either types, or doses) without causing a relapse. This should only be done by your treating gastroenterologist. In short, some sort of regular medication is usually required long term.

If you’re concerned about your Ulcerative Colitis or its symptoms, talk to your IBD Nurse, Gastroenterologist or anyone in your IBD team.


Contributed by Dr Sam Edwards