Complete care for this form of IBD.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This chronic condition causes inflammation and ulcers (open sores) in the inner lining of your colon (large intestine) and rectum.
If you have ulcerative colitis, your condition may sometimes keep you from the activities you love. Our expert providers at Henry Ford are here for you. We’ll use the latest treatments to help you find relief from your symptoms.
Risk factors for ulcerative colitis
Although researchers don’t know what causes ulcerative colitis, we do know certain factors can increase your risk for developing the disease. These risk factors include:
- Age: Ulcerative colitis is more likely to develop in people between the ages of 15 and 30, but it can occur at any age, and some people don’t develop it until after age 60
- Ethnicity: People of Jewish descent are at higher risk for ulcerative colitis, although you can develop it no matter what your race or ethnicity is
- Family history: If you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, you’re at increased risk for ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis symptoms and complications
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary from person to person. Common symptoms you may experience include:
- Abdominal (belly) pain
- Blood in the stool
- Diarrhea that doesn’t go away
- Loss of appetite
- Mucus or pus in the stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexplained weight loss
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. Without proper treatment, it’s possible to develop serious complications as a result of ulcerative colitis, such as:
- Perforation (a hole in the colon)
- Severe bleeding and/or dehydration
- Toxic megacolon, in which the colon swells rapidly and stops working properly
How we diagnose ulcerative colitis
Your care for ulcerative colitis starts with an accurate diagnosis. In addition to a thorough medical history and family history, we use several advanced testing methods to rule in or rule out a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. Those testing methods include:
- Blood tests to check for anemia (low numbers of red blood cells and hemoglobin, a substance in the blood that carries oxygen), which can cause fatigue
- Stool sample to check for infections that may be causing your symptoms
- Colonoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure in which we use an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera) to examine your colon and rectum
- Sigmoidoscopy, a procedure similar to a colonoscopy but that only involves the lower colon and rectum
Our options for treating ulcerative colitis
You and your doctor will work together to create a personalized treatment plan for your ulcerative colitis based on your symptoms and unique concerns. Your treatment plan may include:
Medication therapy for ulcerative colitis
We offer several medications that can reduce your ulcerative colitis symptoms and allow your colon to heal. These medications include:
- 5-aminosalicylate agents, taken either orally or rectally, to reduce inflammation
- Biologic agents, also known as anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapies, which target a specific cellular protein produced by the immune system to reduce inflammation
- Corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation by reducing immune response
- Immunomodulators to reduce immune-system activity
Some of these medications are available only through infusion therapy. Learn more about infusion therapy for treating ulcerative colitis.
Surgery for ulcerative colitis
Most people with ulcerative colitis respond well to medication therapy, but if you don’t, your doctor may recommend surgery. Our gastrointestinal (GI) surgeons use the latest surgical techniques to help you achieve the best possible outcome, including minimally invasive bowel surgery, which involve smaller incisions or sometimes no incisions at all.
Two of the main surgeries we use to treat ulcerative colitis include colectomy (removal of the entire colon and rectum) and ileal pouch surgery (reshaping part of the intestine to form an internal reservoir for collecting waste while allowing for normal bowel movements).
It’s possible to develop complications after surgery for ulcerative colitis, such as pouchitis (inflammation in the surgically created pouch after ileal pouch surgery) and cuffitis (inflammation in the original colon tissue left behind after surgery). Your doctor will monitor you for any complications, and we’ll get you the care you need quickly if they develop.