Colitis Home > Ulcerative Colitis Complications

There are a number of complications that can potentially occur in a person with ulcerative colitis. Some examples of ulcerative colitis complications within the digestive tract include sores or ulcers, toxic megacolon, and a perforation (tear) in the intestines. Among the complications of ulcerative colitis that can occur outside of the intestines are kidney stones, skin disorders, and inflammation of the eyes or mouth. While some of these problems resolve during treatment for ulcerative colitis, others must be treated separately.

An Overview of Ulcerative Colitis Complications

There are a variety of potential complications with ulcerative colitis. Some of these ulcerative colitis complications happen inside the intestines, while others, such as arthritis and skin disorders, occur in other parts of the body (these are known as systemic complications).
 
Possible ulcerative colitis complications within the digestive tract may include:
 
  • Sores or ulcers
  • A perforation (tear) in the intestines
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Cancer
  • A fistula (rare).
     
Some complications of ulcerative colitis that can happen outside of the intestines include:
 
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
  • Joint problems, such as joint tenderness or arthritis
  • Skin disorders
  • Inflammation of the eyes or mouth
  • Liver disease
  • Inflammation of the bile ducts
  • Kidney stones.
     
Not everyone with ulcerative colitis develops these complications. In fact, most people with well-controlled ulcerative colitis will not develop complications. Complications are also less common in those with limited involvement of the colon or rectum. For example, in people with ulcerative proctitis, complications outside the digestive tract are rare.
 
It is not known exactly why a number of these complications can occur -- especially those outside of the intestines.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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