Ulcerative Colitis

Also known as: inflammatory bowel disease, IBD, UC

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an acute/chronic (symptoms come and go), mild to severe, inflammatory disease (with ulcers) of the lining of all or some part of the large bowel (intestine) that occurs mostly in children /young adults aged 10-20yrs. (unusual in children less than 5 yrs of age).

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two commonest forms of chronic bowel disease collectively referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Some children (less than 5%) may present with symptoms not related to the bowel; growth failure, joint inflammation, skin rashes, eye problems, liver disease and others.

What causes ulcerative colitis?

While the cause/s of ulcerative colitis are not entirely clear it appears to involve a child's genetic makeup, their immune system (and its response to a viral or bacterial infection) and perhaps the organisms found in the gut.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are:

  • mild/severe cramps in the belly
  • pain
  • diarrhea which can occur very often during the day with/without blood in the stool.
Symptoms can vary over time with some children having no symptoms for long periods followed by symptoms reappearing. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, and dehydration.

What are ulcerative colitis care options?

Treatments are ongoing and depend on your child's age, symptoms and general health. Several medications can help either control the symptoms, combat the immune response that leads to the condition, and/ or improve nutrition. Surgery to remove the colon and rectum is a possibility in extreme cases.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: July 10, 2020 09:36 AM

Learn more about

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are several related illnesses that cause chronic inflammation of the gut with swelling and damage of the bowel lining. Learn more

Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes the intestine anywhere from mouth to anus to become inflamed, and/or ulcerated, causing it to lose its ability to absorb digested foods. Learn more

Autonomic Dysfunction

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a network of nerves that sends signals between the brain and certain organs to stimulate their activity. Learn more