Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that generally affects the innermost lining (mucosa) of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Ulcerative colitis symptoms typically involve the lining becoming inflamed (red and swollen) and tiny open sores (ulcers) forming on the surface of the lining. These ulcers might bleed – in fact, bleeding from the rectum is often a first sign that something’s not quite right. The inflamed lining also produces a larger than normal amount of intestinal lubricant or mucus, which sometimes contains pus. Most people with this condition respond well to colitis treatment, but in more severe cases, surgery may become a necessary path.
How does ulcerative colitis affect the intestines?
Inflammation ‘attacks’ the innermost lining of the colon known as the mucosa, resulting in bleeding and diarrhoea.
The inflammation is most often located in the rectum and lower colon, but can also involve other parts of the colon, sometimes even the entire colon. Less often, it might involve other parts of the intestine. Depending on the exact location of the inflammation, ulcerative colitis is known by other names:
- Proctitis: involves only the rectum
- Proctosigmoiditis: involves the rectum and sigmoid colon (the lower segment of the colon before the rectum)
- Distal colitis: involves only the left side of the colon
- Pancolitis: involves the entire colon
- Backwash ileitis: involves the distal ileum.