Ulcerative colitis (Inflammatory Bowel Disease):
Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition, where the colon and rectum become inflamed. The colon is the large intestine (bowel), and the rectum is the end of the bowel where stools are stored.
Small ulcers can develop on the colon's lining, and can bleed and produce pus.
The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:
recurring diarrhoea, which may contain blood, mucus or pus
abdominal (tummy) pain
needing to empty your bowels frequently
The severity of the symptoms varies, depending on how much of the rectum and colon is inflamed and how severe the inflammation is. For some people, the condition has a significant impact on their everyday lives.
Some may go for weeks or months with very mild symptoms, or none at all (known as remission), followed by periods where the symptoms are particularly troublesome (known as flare-ups or relapses).
You should see your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms of ulcerative colitis and you haven't been diagnosed with the condition. They can arrange blood or stool sample tests to help determine what may be causing your symptoms. If necessary, they can refer you to hospital for further tests.
Ulcerative colitis is thought to be an autoimmune condition. This means the immune system – the body’s defence against infection – goes wrong and attacks healthy tissue. It is estimated that around 1 in every 420 people living in the UK has ulcerative colitis; this amounts to around 146,000 people. The condition can develop at any age, but is most often diagnosed between 15 and 25.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis aims to relieve symptoms during a flare-up and prevent symptoms from returning (known as maintaining remission).
In most people, this is achieved by taking medication such as aminosalicylates (ASAs) and corticosteroids, often known as steriods.
If medications are ineffective at controlling your symptoms, or your quality of life is significantly affected by your condition, surgery to remove your colon may be an option.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) should not be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is a different condition and requires different treatment.