Ulcerative Colitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal tract. This is an inflammatory condition that also leads to the development of sores, referred to as ulcers, in the bowels. Ulcerative colitis is classified as a type of inflammatory bowel disease, often abbreviated as IBD, and affects various parts of the digestive tract, including the rectum and the colon.

There are no cures for ulcerative colitis at the moment, but a range of different treatment options have been developed that helps to reduce the severity of symptoms. Some patients also find that effectively managing the condition through medication and dietary modifications lead to remission for significant periods of time.

Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis tends to develop gradually, and the symptoms do not appear overnight, which is why the symptoms are sometimes overlooked for other gastrointestinal conditions. When symptoms associated with the condition develop, a patient should seek a medical examination to determine if they might be developing the condition.

Diarrhea is a relatively common symptom of ulcerative colitis. The patient’s stool may sometimes be accompanied by pus or blood. Other signs that a patient may be developing the condition include:

  • Pain in the rectum and abdomen
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss

Many patients also find that they have a frequent urgency to use the bathroom, yet when they go to the bathroom, they are unable to defecate.

Types Of Ulcerative Colitis

There are different types of this condition that patients need to understand. Some causes more serious symptoms and complications as other types. The type of ulcerative colitis that a patient is diagnosed with is often utilized to define the particular areas of the digestive tract that is affected by the condition.


Proctosigmoiditis is a type of ulcerative colitis that causes inflammation in the lower region of the patient’s colon, as well as the rectum.

Ulcerative Proctitis

A type of the condition that affects the rectum, which is the part of the digestive tract that is near the anus.


This type affects the patient’s entire colon. It can cause severe diarrhea and pain and may be difficult to treat as sores and inflammation can occur in various parts of the digestive tract.

Left-Sided Colitis

When a patient is diagnosed with left-sided colitis, it means three parts of their digestive tract is affected – this includes the descending colon, the sigmoid, as well as the rectum.

Acute Ulcerative Colitis

Often a more severe type of ulcerative colitis, this is a rare condition where the patient experiences more severe symptoms and their entire colon is affected by the condition.

Possible Causes Of Ulcerative Colitis

Medical scientists and researchers are not completely sure why some people develop ulcerative colitis, but they do know that there are certain triggers and potential risk factors that can increase the risk of the condition’s development.

One scientific paper1 describes a possible connection between ulcerative colitis and autoimmune reactions, which is a term used to describe the immune system attacking the body, even when no pathogens are present. The paper also explains that recent studies found up to 20% of the patients diagnosed with this condition has one or more closely related family members who had been diagnosed with either Chron’s disease or ulcerative colitis in the past.

Complications Of Ulcerative Colitis

A number of complications have been associated with ulcerative colitis, which is why patients are advised to see a physician and obtain the appropriate tests to determine if they have the condition when symptoms start to develop.

Possible complications that may develop, especially when ulcerative colitis is not appropriately treated, may include:

  • Bleeding severely from the anus
  • A perforated colon
  • A higher risk of osteoporosis
  • An increase in the risk of developing colon cancer
  • Toxic megacolon
  • A higher risk of developing blood clots
  • Inflammation may spread to the eyes, joints, and even start to affect the patient’s skin
  • Dehydration may also occur at serious levels
  • In rare cases, liver disease may also develop

Treatment Options For Ulcerative Colitis

The many advancements that have already been made in the field of treating ulcerative colitis have helped many patients experience great relief in symptom severity, and may even induce long periods of remission, where inflammation and the risk of developing sores are minimized.

A range of medications has now been introduced to assist in the treatment of this chronic inflammatory condition. Possible pharmaceutical agents that may be used include2:

  • 5-aminosalicylates
  • Azathioprine
  • Corticosteroids
  • Cyclosporine


The development of ulcerative colitis leads to long-term complications that affect the colon, rectum and other parts of the digestive tract. The condition has no existing cure at the moment, but several advancements in treatment options have been made, which can help to treat the condition effectively. Recognizing the symptoms can lead to earlier treatment, which may yield a more positive outlook for the patient.


1 P. Collins, J. Rhodes. Ulcerative colitis: diagnosis and management. BMJ. 12 August 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1539087/

2 U. Mahadevan. Medical Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery. February 2004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1539087/