What is Ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis involves inflammation of the superficial layers or lining (called the mucosa) of the large intestine, usually occurring in the lower large intestine and rectum but sometimes may involve the entire large intestine. Ulcers form on the surface of the lining where inflammation has damaged the tissue, and these ulcers bleed. The inflamed lining also produces mucus, which can sometimes contain pus.

Ulcerative colitis is classified as mild, moderate or severe depending on clinical disease activity. People with ulcerative colitis typically experience periods of disease activity (flares) and periods of inactivity (remission that can last for months or even years) and cycle through these two states. People may go into remission following treatment but a relapse of symptoms is common and most patients’ symptoms eventually return. Symptoms depend on the location and extent of intestinal tract involved. The most common symptom is bloody diarrhoea though other associated symptoms may be present as the disease gets more severe.

Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the immune system attacks its own body tissues. While the exact cause of ulcerative colitis is currently unknown, the result is an immune system that promotes inflammation in the digestive tract. Some triggers for ulcerative colitis could include a genetic tendency, environmental and lifestyle factors, and exposure to certain bacteria or viruses.

Diagnosis of ulcerative colitis can be delayed as the same symptoms can occur with other diseases. Your doctor plays an important role in recognising the signs of inflammatory bowel disease and facilitating an early diagnosis.

If you have any further questions about your treatment options, please contact your doctor.