Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition in which the large bowel (which is also known as the colon or the large intestine) becomes inflamed. The amount of the large bowel that is affected by ulcerative colitis varies from person to person.


The symptoms of ulcerative colitis include bloody diarrhoea, needing to go to the toilet a lot and abdominal pain. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the condition can have a big effect on people's everyday lives, particularly if it is not well controlled.

When symptoms are active, this is called a flare-up, a relapse or an exacerbation. These flare-ups can be followed by periods of months or even years with few or no symptoms.

Aims of treatment

At present there is no cure for ulcerative colitis. The aims of treatment are:

  • to heal the inflammation and so reduce symptoms during a flare-up – this is known as 'inducing remission'

  • to prevent flare-ups happening in the future – this is known as 'maintaining remission'.

There are various drugs that can help with both of these aims. Surgery may also be an option.

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