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Definition of «Ulcerative colitis»

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Ulcerative colitis: A relatively common disease that causes inflammation of the large intestine (the colon). The cause is unknown.

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease. It has some similarity to a related disorder, Crohn's disease.

The end of the colon (the rectum) is always involved in ulcerative colitis. When the inflammation is limited to the rectum, it is called ulcerative proctitis.

The inflammation may extend to varying degrees into the upper parts of the colon. When the entire colon is involved, the terms pancolitis or universal colitis are used.

Intermittent rectal bleeding, crampy abdominal pain and diarrhea can be symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis characteristically waxes and wanes. Many patients experience long remissions, even without medication. Ulcerative colitis may mysteriously resolve ("burn out") after a long history of symptoms.

Direct visualization (sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) with sampling of the lining of the bowel is the most accurate diagnostic test. Especially in new cases, infections and other diseases that can mimic ulcerative colitis have to be considered and excluded.

Long-standing ulcerative colitis increases the risk for colon cancer. Ulcerative colitis can also be associated with inflammation in joints, spine, skin, eyes, the liver and its bile ducts.

The treatment of ulcerative colitis may involve medications and/or surgery. Since inflammatory bowel disease is currently an area of active and productive research, new treatments are anticipated which, it is hoped, will be of value in ulcerative colitis.

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