Ulcerative Colitis Complications

Intestinal Complications of Ulcerative Colitis Explained

Sores or Ulcers
The cells that make up the lining of the intestines are shed and replaced on a regular basis in a healthy body. But when the lining of the intestine is irritated, cells may be shed more frequently, causing ulcers or other sores to form. A common symptom of sores or ulcers is rectal bleeding. Ulcers can be serious. Sometimes they can go through the intestines and damage an artery. This can lead to life-threatening bleeding.
A perforation is a hole is the bowel. The size, location, and seriousness of the hole can vary, and each perforation has different treatment options. Small perforations often seal themselves off, so they may only require a few days in the hospital with close observation. More serious bowel perforations may require a surgery and possible repair or removal of the damaged area. Rarely, a colostomy bag may need to be placed temporarily or permanently after the damaged bowel is removed.
Toxic Megacolon
One of the more serious complications of ulcerative colitis is called "toxic megacolon," which occurs when the large intestine stops working and expands suddenly. This can cause it to bleed excessively, or even rupture -- which can be very dangerous. It is thought that excessive use of antidiarrheal medicines can increase the risk of developing toxic megacolon. Symptoms of toxic megacolon may include a high fever, increased heart rate, and abdominal pain (or stomach pain). A bowel perforation can also result from toxic megacolon. Toxic megacolon is a medical emergency.
Ulcerative colitis can increase the risk of developing colon cancer. This risk is greater in people who have had the disease for more than 10 years and who have a significant amount of the colon affected. It is estimated that the risk of cancer is up to 1 percent per year for those who have had the disease for more than 10 years. For those whose entire colon is affected, the risk of colon cancer is estimated at 6.6 percent for those who have had the condition for 26 years.
Patients with ulcerative proctitis have no increased risk of developing cancer.
(Click Ulcerative Colitis and Colon Cancer for more information.)

Information on Ulcerative Colitis

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