Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum.
See also: Crohn’s disease
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. It may affect any age group, although there are peaks at ages 15 – 30 and then again at ages 50 – 70.
The disease usually begins in the rectal area and may eventually extend through the entire large intestine. Repeated swelling (inflammation) leads to thickening of the wall of the intestine and rectum with scar tissue. Death of colon tissue or sepsis (severe infection) may occur with severe disease.
The symptoms vary in severity and may start slowly or suddenly. Many factors can lead to attacks, including respiratory infections or physical stress.
Risk factors include a family history of ulcerative colitis, or Jewish ancestry.
Pictures & ImagesColonoscopy
There are 4 basic tests for colon cancer: a stool test (to check for blood); sigmoidoscopy (inspection of the lower colon; colonoscopy (inspection of the entire colon); and double contrast barium enema. All 4 are effective in catching cancers in the early stages, when treatment is most beneficial.Digestive system
The esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine, aided by the liver, gallbladder and pancreas convert the nutritive components of food into energy and break down the non-nutritive components into waste to be excreted.Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is categorized according to location:
- Proctitis involves only the rectum
- Proctosigmoiditis affects the rectum and sigmoid colon
- Left-sided colitis encompasses the entire left side of the large intestine
- Pancolitis inflames the entire colon
Review Date : 10/18/2009
Reviewed By : David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc., and George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.