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What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the colon (large intestine) accompanied in severe cases by ulcers in the lining of the colon. It is most often diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 and 30, although it can develop at any age, in both children and adults.

Ulcerative colitis

The majority of patients have inflammation in their rectum, which spreads along the colon to varying extents.The inflammation may be limited to the rectum (proctitis) or rectum and sigmoid colon (distal colitis) or rectum, sigmoid and descending colon (left-sided colitis). When more than just the left colon is affected, it is termed "extensive colitis." "Pancolitis"is the term used when the entire colon is inflamed.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition in which individuals experience both periods of active disease (flares/relapses) and periods of mild or inactive disease (remission). Typical symptoms include frequent loose and often bloody stools, abdominal pain or cramping, night time awakenings, urgency, and incontinence. Typical treatments involves anti-inflammatory medications (5-aminosalicylates) or immunomodulators (medications that modulate or suppress the immune system). Occasionally, medical treatment fails and surgical removal of the diseased colon becomes necessary.

Contact Information

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program
Digestive Disease Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215