Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It is usually located in both the large intestine and the rectum. Most common symptoms are diarrhea, bloody stools and abdominal pain. The diagnosis is made based on a colonoscopy and biopsies. The illness is treated with medication and in severe cases with surgery. Ulcerative colitis is not contagious.
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. The illness can start at any age, but usually in younger years (15-35 years). Bacteria and viruses have been suggested to trigger the illness, but so far there is no certain evidence. A genetic predisposition together with one or more environmental factors, which are so far unknown, affect the onset of the illness. A connection with nutritional factors has also been suggested. Many patients experience that some foods increase bowel symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis appears in the large intestine on an area that can vary in size, usually starting from the rectum. Proctitis is inflammation located only in the rectum. In left-sided colitis the inflammation extends upwards into the large intestine until the bend below the ribs on the left. When the entire large intestine is inflamed, the patient has total colitis. Even if the inflammation originally was only in the rectum, it can spread to the entire large intestine.