A chronic condition that causes inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the large intestine. Scientists don’t know the exact cause of ulcerative colitis, but they believe autoimmunity may play a role: Bacteria or viruses may trigger a misguided attack on the inner lining of the large intestine by the immune system, which ordinarily protects the body from infection. This immune response can cause inflammation, leading to the urgent need to have a bowel movement, fatigue, nausea or loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and anemia.
Ulcerative colitis is generally diagnosed based on the patient’s medical and family history, physical exam, lab tests, and endoscopic examination of the large intestine. Medications cannot cure ulcerative colitis, but they can sometimes slow or delay the progress of the disease and alleviate symptoms. Aminosalicylates such as balsalazide, mesalamine, olsalazine, and sulfasalazine can be taken orally and/or rectally to help control inflammation. Corticosteroids (budesonide, hydrocortisone, methylprednisone, and prednisone) suppress activity of the immune system and help decrease inflammation. Immunomodulators (azathioprine and 6-MP) also reduce inflammation by reducing the immune response. Biologicals (adalimumab, golimumab, infliximab, and vedolizumab) work against proteins that promote inflammation. Antibiotics may help prevent or treat infections, and loperamide may be used to slow or stop diarrhea. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.