What You Need to Know About Ulcerative Colitis (Including Signs, Symptoms And Treatment Options)

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that can be challenging to diagnose due to its wide range of symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and rectal bleeding. Fortunately, you can start a search online right now to learn the early signs.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

According to WebMD, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that triggers irritation, inflammation, and ulcers in the colon’s lining, otherwise known as the large intestine.

Unfortunately, there is currently no known cure for ulcerative colitis, and individuals may experience symptoms intermittently throughout their lives, says the source. However, effective treatments are available that can help manage the disease and improve its symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

The severity of ulcerative colitis symptoms can differ significantly from person to person and even fluctuate over time, says Healthline. Individuals diagnosed with ulcerative colitis may experience periods of remission where symptoms are mild or nonexistent. However, the source adds that symptoms may resurface and worsen, leading to a flare-up.

Healthline lists the typical symptoms of ulcerative colitis as abdominal pain, increased abdominal sounds, bloody stools, diarrhea, fever, rectal pain, weight loss, and malnutrition. Ulcerative colitis may also result in other symptoms such as joint pain, joint swelling, decreased appetite and nausea, skin problems, mouth sores, and inflammation of the eyes.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

When it comes to ulcerative colitis, healthcare providers typically categorize the disease according to its location in the body, explains the Mayo Clinic. Although symptoms may overlap between types, there is a classification of subtypes pertaining to ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative proctitis

This type involves inflammation confined to the area closest to the anus, which is also known as the rectum, says the source. In some cases, rectal bleeding may be the sole symptom of the disease.


Inflammation in this type involves both the rectum and sigmoid colon, which is the lower end of the colon. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include abdominal cramps and pain, bloody diarrhea, and needing to pass stools but being unable to.

Left-sided colitis

You’ll have inflammation that extends from the rectum up through the sigmoid and descending portions of the colon, says the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping on the left side, and an urgent need to defecate.


It can affect the entire colon and may cause severe bouts of bloody diarrhea, fatigue, abdominal cramps and pain, and significant weight loss, notes the source.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown, but experts believe that it may stem from an overactive immune system. However, why some immune systems react by attacking the large intestine while others do not is still unclear, says Healthline.

Several factors may influence the likelihood of developing ulcerative colitis, including genetics, immune disorders, and environmental factors. The source also explains that inheriting a gene from a parent may increase the risk of ulcerative colitis, as well as having another type of immune disorder. Finally, Healthline notes that environmental factors such as exposure to bacteria, viruses, and antigens may trigger an immune system reaction leading to ulcerative colitis.

How Is It Treated?

WebMD explains that treating ulcerative colitis involves two primary goals – improving symptoms in order to allow the colon to heal and preventing the occurrence of future flare-ups. Depending on how severe a person’s condition is, they might require a combination of treatments including dietary changes, medication, or surgery.

Luckily, there are several medications available to treat ulcerative colitis. WebMD suggests antibiotics to fight infections and promote healing, aminosalicylates with 5-aminosalicylic acid to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms, corticosteroids for anti-inflammatory effects, and immunomodulators to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation.

According to the Mayo Clinic, biologics are a type of treatment that targets proteins produced by the immune system. Ustekinuman (Stelara) is an example of a biologic used to treat ulcerative colitis. This medication is approved for ulcerative colitis treatment in individuals who do not respond to or cannot tolerate other therapies. It works by blocking a specific protein that causes inflammation.

If other treatments are unsuccessful or the condition is severe, surgery may be required, according to WebMD. This may involve removing the colon (colectomy) or both the colon and rectum (proctocolectomy).