Condition: Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition that affects the large intestine causing irritation and ulcers that can cause unpleasant symptoms including diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

To book offline, call our Digestive Health centre directly on: 02036532009


What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes irritation and ulcers in the large intestine (colon and rectum). It can develop at any age but most commonly occurs in those between the ages of 15 and 30.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary from person to person but can have a significant impact on your daily life. While they can be constant, symptoms often become either worse (flare-ups) or better (remission) for periods of time. How severe your symptoms are also depends on how much of the large intestine is affected.

The main symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

  • Diarrhoea, often containing blood, mucus or pus

  • Abdominal pain and cramps

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Frequent and/or urgent bowel movements

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

  • Weight loss

If you are having a flare-up, you may experience additional symptoms elsewhere in your body known as extra-intestinal symptoms. These may include:

  • Pain and swelling in your joints

  • Mouth ulcers

  • Erythema nodosum (swollen fat under the skin which causes bumps)

  • Irritation and redness of your eyes

  • Bone issues such as osteoporosis

What causes ulcerative colitis?

The cause of ulcerative colitis is complex and involves many factors but it is thought to be an autoimmune condition – instead of protecting your body against infection, your immune system mistakenly attacks the body, causing inflammation and tissue damage.

Exactly why this happens is not yet clear, but experts suggest that it could be down to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

For most people, there is no obvious trigger for their flare-ups. However, it’s thought that a gut infection could be a cause, and stress may also be a factor.

How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?

A gastroenterologist can make a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis based on an assessment of your symptoms and the results of testing. Tests that may be required include blood tests, stool samples, an MRI or CT scan and a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. These will help to rule out any other conditions or health issues so that a definitive diagnosis can be made.

What are the treatment options for ulcerative colitis?

There’s no cure for ulcerative colitis but there are treatment options available that can help manage your symptoms.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be prescribed certain medications to help reduce inflammation in your large intestine and to help induce and maintain remission. These medications reduce swelling and irritation in order to allow the tissue in your colon and rectum to heal, relieving symptoms of pain and diarrhoea. These medications need to be taken continually, even once symptoms have eased, in order to keep the condition under control.

Surgery may be required if medicines are not effective. One surgical option is called ileoanal reservoir surgery. This is where an internal pouch is created and connected to your anus so that stool will collect in the reservoir and be passed through the anus during bowel movements.

In cases where a pouch cannot be created, a type of surgery called an ileostomy may be needed. This is where some or all of your colon is removed and the small intestine is diverted out of an opening in your abdomen (stoma). In some cases, the stoma is temporary and can be closed up once your bowel has healed.

Book a consultation

Jul 2024


Currently selected day

Available consultations

Click any unavailable day to check availability with similar consultants

Ulcerative Colitis Specialists

We have brought together a group of leading colorectal and general surgeons and gastroenterologists to create our Digestive Health team. With over 300 years of combined experience, these expert clinicians are the best in their field and are all focused on delivering the very best patient care.