Ulcerative Colitis

Digestive System showing ulcerative colitis inflammation

Ulcerative colitis is more localized in nature than Crohn’s disease. Typically, the disease affects the colon (large intestine) 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. Colitis can be controlled with medication and in severe cases can even be treated through the surgical removal of the entire large intestine. 

What are the Symptoms?

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.

Colitis is a chronic (lifelong) disease. Like Crohn’s disease, people with colitis have acute periods of active symptoms, and other times when their symptoms are absent (remission). Unlike Crohn’s, 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 colitis 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.

surgery and ulcerative colitis

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown, and as a result, there is no cure for the disease. If symptoms persist or worsen in spite of medication and other therapies, a doctor may recommend the complete removal of the colon as a treatment for the disease.

Need more Information?   

Your local chapter of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada is a powerhouse of health information. Through education, presentation and discussion, people can find resources to help them cope with their Crohn’s, and meet others who are living with Crohn’s or colitis. Please go to Get Involved to look up the chapter closest to you. It’s in your best interest to get active and informed!

  • Canada has among the highest incidence rates of Crohn's and colitis in the world.
  • 1 in 140 Canadians lives with Crohn’s or colitis.
  • Families new to Canada are developing these diseases for the first time.
  • Incidence of Crohn’s in Canadian kids under 10 has doubled since 1995.
  • People are most commonly diagnosed before age 30.

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