Ulcerative colitis, or UC, is more localized in nature than Crohn’s disease (CD). Typically, the disease affects the colon (large bowel) including the rectum and anus, and only invades the inner lining of bowel tissue. It almost always starts at the rectum, extending upwards in a continuous manner through the colon. UC can be controlled with medication and in severe cases, can even be “cured” by surgical removal of the entire large intestine.
People suffering with ulcerative colitis experience severe and bloody diarrhea, false urges to have a bowel movement, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea and vomiting, decreased appetite, weight loss, mild fever, anemia and loss of body fluids.
UC is a chronic (life long) disease. Like CD, people with UC have acute periods of active symptoms, and other times when their symptoms are absent (remisson). Unlike CD, there is usually not any pain during remission. During flare-ups, the pain is usually not constant but does seem to arise coincidentally with the urge to have a bowel movement. Often the pain is experienced more as a cramping sensation than as lancing pain.
One of the hallmark symptoms of UC are the “false urges” that arise frequently during the day. People with false urges experience an extremely urgent need to have a bowel movement, and yet, when they try to expel feces, discover that they only have a small amount to pass. This sense of urgency is due to inflammation of the rectum.
Can UC be cured?
Yes and no. Because we do not know the cause of UC yet, we do not know the cure. However, if severe symptoms persist in spite of medication and other therapies, a surgeon may resect (remove) the colon. By doing so, the patient is “cured” of UC and the disease will not return anywhere else in the GI tract. In effect, a “cure” has been achieved.
This educational content was originally published by The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC) is a national not-for-profit voluntary medical research Foundation. Its mission is to find the cure for inflammatory bowel disease. Please join with us in our mission to “Find the Cure” by clicking on our online donations and giving what you can.