Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease of the rectal and colon mucosa (inner tissue), causing severe inflammation (swelling) and ulcerations (open sores). UC does not affect any other area of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. UC starts just inside the anus, where the rectal tissue begins, and it will creep up the large bowel (colon) from there. It can affect just the rectum, but more commonly, it will affect a larger portion of the colon, increasing the severity of symptoms.
Symptoms of UC
UC is characterized by periods of fewer or even no symptoms, followed by periods of increased, more intense symptoms – known as “flares.” Symptoms of UC flares can include:
- Crampy abdominal or rectal pain
- Joint pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Urgency and frequency of diarrhea
- Weight loss
Surgical treatment for UC
Unlike Crohn’s disease, surgery can cure UC. Surgery for UC typically involves removing the entire colon and rectum and connecting an internal pouch (J-pouch) made of the small bowel or connecting an external pouch (ostomy) to collect waste outside the body. In some cases, patients only require surgical removal of the affected areas of their colon and rectum.
Having UC increases your risk for developing colorectal cancer. You may choose to undergo surgery to eliminate your colorectal cancer risk, to avoid needing medications and steroids, or to resolve your UC symptoms.