Ulcerative Colitis



The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known. Things that may play a role are:

  • Micro organisms in the intestines that cause the immune system to overreact
  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors, such as diet, drugs, infection, and stress

Risk Factors

Ulcerative colitis is more common in people who are 15 to 30 years of age. It is also more common in people of Jewish descent. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having a family member with IBD
  • Taking certain medicines, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Gastroenteritis



Problems may be:

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stool
  • Belly cramps and pain
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy and weakness
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Skin rash


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done.

Blood tests may be done to check for anemia and signs of inflammation. A stool test may be done to look for signs of infection.

The inside of the colon and rectum will be viewed. This can be done with:

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy

A sample of tissue may be taken from the colon and rectum. This can be done with a biopsy.



The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Choices are:

  • Dietary changes, such as eating a healthful diet and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms
  • Fecal transplantation to place the stool of a healthy person into the colon of someone with UC to promote healthy bacterial growth
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Aminosalicylates to ease inflammation
    • Steroid anti-inflammatory medications to ease pain and inflammation
    • Immune modifiers to target the body's immune system to help manage disease
    • Biological agents to target the body's immune system to help manage disease

Mental health counseling can also help a person learn how to cope with the disease.

People who are not helped by these methods may need surgery. A colectomy is the partial or full removal of the colon.


There are no current guidelines to prevent ulcerative colitis.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.