Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a type of chronic, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that occurs in the colon with symptoms developing slowly over time. It stems from an inflammation of the colon lining where small, open sores form and produce mucous and pus. This irritation of the lining of the large intestine, or colon, eventually results in persistent abdominal discomfort and diarrhea and sometimes can cause life-threatening complications.

Ulcerative colitis is classified based on its location within the colon. The mildest form of the disease is called ulcerative proctitis and is found in the area of the colon closest to the rectum. Another form of the disease, proctosigmoiditis, occurs in the sigmoid colon, or the area around the rectum and lower end of the colon. If the inflammation expands from the rectum to the upper left stomach area, it is diagnosed as left-sided colitis. Pancolitis extends beyond the left side of the colon and can affect the entire colon, causing more severe and constant symptoms. The most rare and potentially life-threatening type of ulcerative colitis is fulminant colitis, which can lead to a rupture or rapid expansion of the colon. There is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, and treatments usually focus on suppressing symptoms and potentially inducing a long-term remission of the disease. 

UAB Medicine is known worldwide as a leading center for digestive and liver disorders. Our gastroenterology and gastrointestinal (GI) program is consistently ranked among the top programs of its kind in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We see more than 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures each year.

Our specialty at UAB has a notable history. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, MD, founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized GI and other diagnoses around the world and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest in the country and has grown to become one of the most prestigious, both clinically and academically.

UAB continues to lead advancements in gastroenterology by participating in many research trials of promising drug therapies and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our physicians and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many GI illnesses through basic research, including studies of the bacteria that inhabit our intestines and affect our health.

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