What is Ulcerative Colitis (UC)?

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed, or had it for years, it’s important to understand what Ulcerative Colitis is and what it means for you (or your loved one).

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum. It happens when parts or all the lining of these areas becomes inflamed. This is usually a response to something foreign (such as an infection). However in UC, the body recognizes the bowel as foreign, and the inflammation continues, which can lead to ongoing damage to the colon.

Doctors still aren’t sure exactly what causes UC, but genetics, other immune disorders and environmental factors may all increase the risk.

UC can occur at any age, but is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 15-30 with a second peak at the ages of 50-60.

Possible symptoms

The most common symptom of UC is diarrhoea (which can appear with or without blood and/or mucus).

Other common symptoms of UC include:

Abdominal pain
Weight loss
Bloody stools
Constipation
Fever
Tiredness
Rectal pain
Malnutrition

UC may cause other issues such as:

Joint pain
Joint swelling
Skin problems
Mouth sores
Eye problems

The severity of symptoms will vary over time, and in each person. It doesn’t get worse over time, but a person can experience flare ups and periods of remission.

Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis

There are several tests that can be used in the diagnosis of UC, including:

Blood tests
Stool tests (including faecal calprotectin which can be used to measure inflammation)
Colonoscopy with biopsies
Ultrasound

Your doctor will use the results of these tests to determine whether you have Ulcerative Colitis or not.

Treatment options

The treatment given will depend on the severity of the disease. Your doctor will discuss your options with you, which may include:

Aminosalicylates
Corticosteriods
Immunosuppressants
Antibiotics
Biologics and small molecules
Surgery (reserved for severe or refractory cases)

If you have concerns about suffering from Ulcerative Colitis or questions about your diagnosis, please feel free to contact the friendly team at IBD SA. We are happy to see patients for initial appointments as well as second opinions.