Ulcerative colitis is an autoimmune condition caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself. This causes continuous segments of inflammation in the gut wall, affecting the colon and rectum only.
2 in 1,000 adults in the UK are affected by ulcerative colitis.
Symptoms may vary depending on the length of gut affected and severity.
The most common symptoms include:
- Blood mixed in with bowel motions;
- Tummy pain;
- Pain on passing a bowel motion.
Some patients may develop symptoms due to complications of their ulcerative colitis including bowel dilation, bowel leak or severe bleeding.
Some patients may also develop symptoms in other parts of the body including: skin rashes, mouth ulcers, joint pain, eye inflammation, and fragile bones.
Patients with ulcerative colitis are at increased risk of developing bowel cancer.
The causes of ulcerative colitis are not entirely known but it is thought to be a result of complex interactions between a person’s genes and their environment.
Having a family member with ulcerative colitis or another autoimmune condition is associated with an increased likelihood of developing ulcerative colitis.
Blood tests, stool samples and scans may all help in making a diagnosis.
The gold standard for diagnosis is to insert a flexible telescope into the anus and around the colon (colonoscopy) to collect a sample of tissue (biopsy) to be examined under a microscope.