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JAMA Patient Page
January 4, 2012

Ulcerative Colitis

JAMA. 2012;307(1):104. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.1889

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease make the bowel (intestine) inflamed, irritated, swollen, and unable to function in a healthy way. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine (the colon) and the rectum but does not involve the small intestine (the part of the bowel that connects the stomach to the colon and that is responsible for almost all the body's food digestion and absorption of nutrition). Crohn disease affects both the small intestine and the colon.

Ulcerative colitis is found almost equally in men and women and tends to appear in young adults, although it can be diagnosed at any age. Ulcerative colitis occurs in families in approximately 2% to 5% of cases, which is a higher frequency than expected by chance, meaning that it sometimes has an inherited (genetic) pattern. The main symptom of the disease is bloody diarrhea, and a person who has this symptom is usually referred to a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in the management of digestive disorders.