Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a type of chronic, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the colon with symptoms that develop slowly. It occurs when small, open sores inflame and irritate the lining of the colon (large intestine). This eventually results in persistent abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. It can sometimes lead to life-threatening complications.


Ulcerative colitis is classified based on its location within the colon:

  • The mildest form, ulcerative proctitis, is found in the lowest part of the colon near the rectum.
  • Another form of the disease, proctosigmoiditis, occurs in the sigmoid colon, also in the low part 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 symptoms.
  • The rarest and most potentially life-threatening type of ulcerative colitis is fulminant colitis. This type can lead to a rupture or rapid expansion of the colon.

There is no known cure for ulcerative colitis, and treatments usually focus on reducing symptoms and achieving long-term relief.

UAB GI program

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 nation’s best by U.S. News & World Report. We see over 20,000 patients and perform more than 12,000 outpatient procedures each year.

Our GI program is also historically significant. The inventor of the endoscope, Basil Hirschowitz, M.D., founded our program more than 50 years ago. His innovation revolutionized diagnoses for GI and other conditions and continues to inspire us today. Our interventional endoscopy group, which includes endoscopic ultrasound, is one of the busiest and most prestigious in the country – both clinically and academically.

UAB Medicine continues to lead advancements in gastroenterology through active clinical research trials involving the latest drug therapies and other treatments for digestive disorders. Our doctors and scientists are searching for causes and cures for many GI illnesses through basic research. For example, they study how the bacteria in our intestines affect our health.

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