Understanding Ulcerative Colitis (UC)
What is UC?
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic (or ongoing) disease of the colon or large intestine. UC is known as an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)—a term used to describe a number of inflammatory diseases which affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. If you have an inflammatory disorder such as UC, your immune system attacks your own GI tissues .
People with UC can experience a number of signs and symptoms, including severe abdominal cramping and pain, fatigue, and the sudden, uncontrollable urge for bowel movements. But with appropriate medical treatment, many people with UC are able to achieve real symptom control .
What causes UC?
While the direct cause of UC is unknown, here's what we do know: First, you may be more likely to experience UC if it's part of your family's medical history. Second, UC symptoms begin when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body, for reasons we do not yet understand.
Normally, the immune system (the body's natural defense system), protects your body from bacteria, viruses and other foreign agents. When you have UC, your immune system incorrectly targets your GI tract . This causes inflammation—leading to the symptoms and flares usually experienced with UC.
Who gets UC?
- UC affects approximately 500,000 Americans. Your risk is higher if you have a close relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child, who has UC
- UC typically develops in people between the ages of 15 and 30 or 50 and 70. However, it is possible for anyone at any age to develop UC
- People of Caucasian and Jewish origins have a higher risk of developing IBD compared with other racial and ethnic subgroups
Hear from these actual patients with moderately to severely active UC who didn't respond well to other therapies and were treated with REMICADE®. Individual results may vary.
Symptoms and diagnosis
The most common symptoms of UC include blood in the stool or bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and the sudden urge for bowel movements.
Other symptoms of UC include:
- Severe diarrhea
- Frequent bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Some people with UC may also have tiny open sores (or ulcers) that form on the surface of the lining of the colon. These sores can bleed and produce pus and mucus. Because inflammation makes the colon empty frequently, other complications can arise, such as unwanted weight loss and blood loss.
How is UC diagnosed?
Your doctor  will take several steps in order to accurately diagnose UC. These steps will also help rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as a bacterial or viral infection, and make sure you don't have another gastrointestinal problem like Crohn's disease (CD). To do this, your doctor will look at your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam as well as several tests.
The tests your doctor will perform may include:
- Stool examination: Analyzing a stool sample can help your gastroenterologist eliminate possible bacterial, viral, or parasitic causes of your diarrhea
- Blood tests: Your gastroenterologist will perform blood tests to look for anemia, white blood cell count, and other markers that could indicate an infection or inflammation
- Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy: These tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis of UC or to determine the extent of inflammation inside the intestine
- Barium enema X-ray: This test gives your doctor a detailed view of the colon, including any ulcers or other abnormalities
UC and Crohn's disease (CD)
Sometimes other conditions can cause abdominal symptoms that appear to be similar to those of UC. Crohn's Disease , for example, also causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, and loss of appetite.