Ulcerative Colitis and the Digestive System

Where Does Ulcerative Colitis Occur?

Ulcerative colitis usually affects the lining of the rectum. If this is the only area involved, the condition may be called "ulcerative proctitis." Frequently, however, other parts of the large intestine are inflamed as well. If this is true in your case, your healthcare provider may use the terms "limited" or "distal" colitis (if the left side of the colon is involved), or "pancolitis" (if the entire colon is affected). In some cases of ulcerative colitis, the inflammation can even extend back into the end of the small intestine. This is known as "backwash ileitis."
In a person with ulcerative colitis, the inflammation begins at the rectum and moves up the colon in a continuous manner. There are no areas of normal intestine between the areas of diseased intestine. In contrast, people who have Crohn's disease may have areas of normal intestine (known as "skip" areas) between the diseased areas.

How Does Ulcerative Colitis Differ from Crohn's Disease?

While Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are both types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), they do differ. Some of the differences between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis include:
  • Which parts of the digestive tract are inflamed
  • Whether the inflammation is continuous or occurs in patches
  • How deep the inflammation goes into the intestinal wall.
Because of these differences, a person with Crohn's disease may also have different symptoms, and may be at risk of different complications, than a person with ulcerative colitis would be.
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are also different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS for short). Unlike Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, IBS does not cause inflammation in the intestines. Therefore, it is a much less serious condition than the different types of inflammatory bowel disease.

Information on Ulcerative Colitis

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