Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease, or inflammation of the colon. It is similar to Crohn’s disease, but it tends to affect only the colon. The inflammation starts in the rectum and works backwards towards the end of the small intestine. It is associated with varying degrees of severity. While most patients with ulcerative colitis do not require surgery, it requires care of a specialized physician trained in the disease. The most common symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis include:
- Blood in the stool
- Recurring rectal discomfort, pain, or feeling of incomplete evacuation of stool
- Abdominal pain
Ulcerative colitis can be associated with other conditions outside the intestine. These include:
- Primary sclerosing cholangitis (disease of the bile ducts)
- Abdominal pain
The diagnosis and evaluation of ulcerative colitis usually requires a colonoscopy. This test uses a colonoscope to visually examine the inside of the colon and rectum for disorders of the lining. A colonoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny fiber-optic video camera and a light inside its tip. It is about the thickness of an adult finger. The tube is flexible and can be maneuvered to investigate the interior surface of the colon. The camera sends magnified images of the colon to a television screen. Multiple biopsies or samples of tissue are usually taken to examine under the microscope. This helps your doctor determine the severity of the disease and the most appropriate treatment options.
While most patients with Ulcerative Colitis do not require surgery, about 10 to 15 percent may not respond to other treatments. In this case, complete removal of the large intestine may be needed. A variety of surgical options exist, including the J-Pouch, ileostomy, and continent ileostomy, or Koch-pouch.