Ulcerative colitis

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a life-long autoimmune disease that affects the large intestine (colon). Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

It can occur at any age, and causes ulcers and inflammation in your colon and rectum.

It changes the way that you digest the food you eat, and how you absorb water and other liquids. Ulcerative colitis reduces the body’s ability to absorb the things it needs from the food you eat, such as vitamins. Also, when the colon is damaged in this way it cannot hold as much waste as normal and is less able to absorb liquid. This leads to frequent bowel movements (sometimes 5 or more in a day) and larger volumes of watery stools.

Types of colitis:

Who is affected by ulcerative colitis?

Anyone can develop ulcerative colitis. It is more common in developed countries and may be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. In the UK, ulcerative colitis affects 1 out of 420 people (data from 2017).

Although ulcerative colitis can occur at any age, diagnosis is not common in children under 5 years old. Usually, ulcerative colitis develops in people aged between 15 and 25.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis affects different people in different ways, often depending on how much of your colon and rectum is affected.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Pain or cramping in the tummy or abdominal area
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness, fatigue
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Feeling unwell in general
  • Painful or swollen joints

Loss of appetite and losing weight

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Anaemia

Your symptoms (for example, the number of times you have to go to the toilet in a day, or the number of stomach or abdominal cramps) may be quite mild or they may be more troublesome. Your symptoms may also come (when you have a relapse or a flare-up) and go (when you are in remission) over your lifetime.

Although there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, there are many treatments that can help

Additional information

You can find additional information about psoriasis following these links:


Crohn’s and colitis UK:

European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation: