Ulcerative Colitis

Mayo Clin Proc. 2019 Jul;94(7):1357-1373. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2019.01.018.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that can involve any aspect of the colon starting with mucosal inflammation in the rectum and extending proximally in a continuous fashion. Typical symptoms on presentation are bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, fecal urgency, and tenesmus. In some patients, extraintestinal manifestations may predate the onset of gastrointestinal symptoms. A diagnosis of UC is made on the basis of presenting symptoms consistent with UC as well as endoscopic evidence showing continuous and diffuse colonic inflammation that starts in the rectum. Biopsies of the colon documenting chronic inflammation confirm the diagnosis of UC. Most cases are treated with pharmacological therapy to first induce remission and then to maintain a corticosteroid-free remission. There are multiple classes of drugs used to treat the disease. For mild to moderate UC, oral and rectal 5-aminosalycilates are typically used. In moderate to severe colitis, medication classes include thiopurines, biological agents targeting tumor necrosis factor and integrins, and the small-molecule Janus kinase inhibitors. However, in up to 15% of cases, patients in whom medical therapy fails or who have development of dysplasia secondary to their long-standing colitis will require surgical treatment. Finally, to minimize the complications of UC and adverse events from medications, a working collaboration between primary care physicians and gastroenterologists is necessary to make sure that vaccinations are optimized and that patients are screened for colon cancer, skin cancer, bone loss, depression, and other treatable and preventable complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Colitis, Ulcerative / epidemiology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / genetics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / physiopathology*
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation