Ulcerative Colitis

If you have a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder such as ulcerative colitis, it can prevent you from doing your daily activities. At Henry Ford Health System, our gastrointestinal physicians and their teams have extensive experience in helping people get relief from their symptoms.

We provide the latest treatments, including minimally invasive surgery, so that you can get back to the things that matter in life.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and ulcers (open sores) in the inner lining of your colon (large intestine) and rectum. This chronic condition is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Ulcerative colitis gradually worsens over time and can have mild to severe symptoms. The condition can go into remission for weeks or months in many people.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Prolonged diarrhea
  • Anemia (reduced red blood cells and hemoglobin in the blood, which causes fatigue)
  • Severe fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding from the rectum

Diagnosing ulcerative colitis

An effective treatment plan starts with an accurate diagnosis. At Henry Ford, our gastroenterologists are experts at thorough evaluation to determine a diagnosis. We may recommend one or more of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis:

  • Blood tests to check for anemia
  • Stool (feces) sample to check for excessive white blood cells or rule out infection
  • Colonoscopy, a minimally invasive procedure using an endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a tiny lighted camera) to examine the inside of the large intestine and rectum
  • Sigmoidoscopy, similar to colonoscopy, an endoscopic procedure that examines only the lower colon and rectum

Henry Ford: treatments we offer for ulcerative colitis

Once we establish a diagnosis, our team of GI specialists works together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to address your needs.

Learn more about IBD conditions and treatments and what to expect when you come to Henry Ford.

Lifestyle changes for ulcerative colitis

Lifestyle changes, especially in your diet, can help control your symptoms. Our registered dietitians work with you to understand your lifestyle and make recommendations including:

  • Eating small amounts of food throughout the day
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Avoiding high-fiber foods, such as nuts, vegetable and fruit skins and popcorn
  • Avoiding fatty, greasy foods
  • Avoiding milk products, if lactose intolerant

Our nonsurgical treatment options

Our gastrointestinal experts at Henry Ford can successfully reduce your symptoms with medications. These medications can relieve symptoms and allow the colon to heal. Options include:

  • 5-aminosalicylate agents, taken either orally or via the rectum, to reduce inflammation
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation by reducing the immune response
  • Immunomodulators to reduce immune system activity
  • Biologic agents, also known as anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapies, that target a specific protein on cells that is produced by the immune system to reduce inflammation

Surgery for ulcerative colitis

Depending on your specific health needs, surgery may be the best option for your care. Our highly skilled GI surgeons are dedicated to helping you achieve your best possible outcome with surgical options, including:

  • Colectomy: The surgeon removes the entire large intestine and rectum.
  • Ileal pouch surgery: The surgeon reshapes part of the intestine to form an internal reservoir for collecting waste. This procedure leaves the sphincter (ring of muscle around the anus that closes the opening) intact to allow for normal bowel movements.
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