What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic bowel disease that affects the large intestine, or colon. People with UC experience inflammation of the colon, which is typically marked by swelling and irritation that eventually leads to the development of ulcers (open sores) that produce blood, pus, and mucus. There is currently no cure for UC so those with the disease usually have symptom flare-ups off and on for life.

Ulcerative colitis occurs when the immune mistakenly identifies food, good gut bacteria, and the cells that line your colon as intruders. When this happens, the white blood cells that usually protect us, attack the lining of our colon instead, which causes inflammation and ulcers.

While doctors don’t know definitively what causes UC, some believe that both genetics and environmental factors may play a role in the development of the disease for some. While other factors such as food and stress don’t cause UC, they can trigger a flare-up of symptoms.

The main symptom of u ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrhea. Other problems may include:

  • Crampy belly pain
  • Sudden urges to empty your colon right away
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Feeling tired
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your colon after you use the bathroom
  • Not being able to hold your stools in

Your doctor will use different tests to determine if you have UC or another type of gut disease. Tests typically include stool and blood samples, x-rays, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy where tubes containing cameras are used to view the inside of the colon and take a biopsy of its lining.

If UC is confirmed, your doctor will work with you to address your symptoms and prevent future flare-ups. This may include altering your diet and prescribing certain medications to reduce inflammation and stop your immune system from attacking your colon. In severe cases, a surgical procedure to remove your colon (colectomy) may be required.

If you are experiencing symptoms of colitis, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you do not have one, Jamaica Hospital has qualified physicians that can diagnose and help you manage this condition. To make an appointment, please call 718-206-7001.