Jefferson University Hospitals

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is one type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); it is a chronic condition of the large intestine or colon and can be caused by environmental factors, your immune system or genetic factors.

Jefferson gastroenterologists are experienced in the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, as well as in helping you effectively manage the disease, not only by minimizing symptoms but also by inducing long-term remission, with the goal for you to return to a normal pattern of bowel movements.

How Is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed?

Ulcerative colitis is typically diagnosed by colonoscopy, which reveals inflammation and even sores or ulcers of the superficial lining of the large intestine. This may involve just the lower part of the colon (or rectum) but can also extend throughout the colon. Biopsies or small samples of tissue will be taken during the colonoscopy so that our pathologists can assist in your diagnosis via examination of the colon under the microscope.

While UC can be diagnosed at any age, it typically appears from teens to mid-thirties and both men and women can get it. Common symptoms include increased frequency of urgent, loose, bloody bowel movements, which may be associated with lower abdominal cramping.

How Is Ulcerative Colitis Treated?

Once a diagnosis has been established, we combine the expertise of specialists within our Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Program to devise a personalized treatment plan to manage your condition. These specialists include gastroenterologists, colorectal surgeons and nutritionists.

We take a multifaceted approach to treatment that includes medications, dietary supplements and advice, and sometimes surgery. The goal is reduce and hopefully eliminate not just the symptoms but also the inflammation of the colon while minimizing side effects and risks of medications.

As many as a quarter of patients with UC will need an operation to remove the colon (called a colectomy) at some point in their lifetime, either because the inflammation cannot be controlled with medicines or secondary to a complication from UC. Our experienced colorectal surgeons perform colectomies laparoscopically (a minimally invasive surgical technique) and can offer surgical options to maintain fecal continence in appropriate patients.

Through our Program, you also have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials for new and experimental treatments.