What Is Ulcerative Colitis? Ulcerative colitis is a condition that causes the inner lining of the large intestine (colon) to get red and swollen with sores called ulcers. It's a chronic condition, which means it lasts a long time or constantly comes and goes. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that happens only in the colon. What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis? The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are cramping belly pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include: blood in the toilet, on toilet paper, or in the stool (poop) urgent need to poop a fever low energy weight loss Ulcerative coliits can cause other problems, such as rashes, eye problems, joint pain and arthritis, and liver disease. Kids with ulcerative colitis may not grow well as well as other kids their age and puberty may happen later than normal. What Causes Ulcerative Colitis? The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not clear. It is probably a combination of genetics, the immune system, and something in the environment that causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Diet and stress may make symptoms worse, but probably don't cause ulcerative colitis. Who Gets Ulcerative Colitis? Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families. But not everyone with ulcerative colitis has a family history of BD. Ulcerative colitis can happen at any age, but is usually diagnosed in teens and young adults. How Is Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosed? Ulcerative colitis is diagnosed with a combination of blood tests, stool tests, and X-rays. Medical imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRIs, might be done too. The doctor will check the stool for blood, and might look at the colon with an instrument called an endoscope, a long, thin tube attached to a TV monitor. In this procedure, called a colonoscopy, the tube is inserted through the anus to let the doctor see inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers on the wall of the colon. During the procedure, the doctor might do a biopsy (taking small tissue samples for further testing). How Is Ulcerative Colitis Treated? Ulcerative colitis is treated with medicines and sometimes surgery. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and avoid flare-ups. The doctor may recommend: anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease the inflammation immunosuppressive agents to prevent the immune system from causing further inflammation biologic agents to block proteins that cause inflammation Because some medicines make it harder to fight infections, it's important that your child be tested for tuberculosis and have all the recommended vaccines before starting treatment. Surgery may be necessary if: the bowel develops a hole the bowel widens and swells up (called toxic megacolon) the bleeding can't be stopped symptoms don't respond to treatment What Else Should I Know About Ulcerative Colitis? Poor appetite, diarrhea, and poor digestion of nutrients can make it hard for people with ulcerative colitis to get the calories and nutrients the body needs. Kids and teens with ulcerative colitis should eat a variety of foods, get plenty of fluids, and learn to avoid foods that make symptoms worse. Some may need supplements, like calcium or vitamin D. Kids who are not growing well may need additional nutrition support. Kids and teens with ulcerative colitis can feel different and might not be able to do the things their friends can do, especially during flare-ups. Some struggle with a poor self-image, depression, or anxiety. They may not take their medicine or follow their diet. It's important to talk to your health care professional if you're concerned about your child's mood, behavior, or school performance. Parents can help teens with ulcerative colitis take on more responsibility for their health as they get older. Back to Articles Related Articles Inflammatory Bowel Disease It's normal to get a stomachache once in a while, but some kids have something more serious called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Find out more about it. Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory bowel disease is an ongoing illness caused by an inflammation of the intestines. There are two kinds of IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two chronic diseases that cause intestinal inflammation: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Although they have features in common, there are some important differences. Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease Factsheet (for Schools) What teachers should know about inflammatory bowel disease, and what teachers can do to help students with IBD succeed in school. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome Having irritable bowel syndrome can make a kid feel awful. The good news is that kids can take steps to feel better. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome Some teens get stomachaches and diarrhea often. Read about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common intestinal disorder that affects the colon. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal problem that can cause cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Certain foods can trigger these problems. So can anxiety, stress, and infections. Read More Transition of Care: Inflammatory Bowel Disease Most teens with IBD should transition to an adult health care provider when they're between 18 and 21 years old. Here's how parents can help them do that. Read More Crohn's Disease Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes parts of the bowel to get red and swollen. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and avoid flare-ups. Read More Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it. Read More Ulcerative Colitis Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that happens only in the colon. It causes the inner lining of the colon to get red and swollen with sores called ulcers. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.