Ulcerative colitis (UL-sur-uh-tiv koe-LIE-tis) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and sores in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of your large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms usually develop over time, rather than suddenly.
Ulcerative colitis can be debilitating and sometimes lead to life-threatening complications. While it has no known cure, treatment can greatly reduce signs and symptoms of the disease and bring about long-term remission.
Ulcerative colitis treatment usually involves either drug therapy or surgery. Several categories of drugs may be effective in treating ulcerative colitis. The type you take will depend on the severity of your condition. The drugs that work well for some people may not work for others, so it may take time to find a medication that helps you.
Surgery can eliminate ulcerative colitis and involves removing your entire colon and rectum (proctocolectomy). In most cases, this involves a procedure called ileoanal anastomosis (J-pouch) surgery. This procedure eliminates the need to wear a bag to collect stool. Your surgeon constructs a pouch from the end of your small intestine. The pouch is then attached directly to your anus, allowing you to expel waste relatively normally. In some cases, a pouch is not possible. Instead, surgeons create a permanent opening in your abdomen (ileal stoma) through which stool is passed for collection in an attached bag.
You'll need more frequent screening for colon cancer because of your increased risk. The recommended schedule will depend on the location of your disease and how long you have had it.
If your disease involves more than your rectum, you will require a surveillance colonoscopy every one to two years, beginning as soon as eight years after diagnosis if the majority of your colon is involved or 15 years if only the left side of your colon is involved.
Not all treatments, tests and services are available at all Mayo Clinic Health System locations. Check with your preferred location in advance.