What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis was first described in 1875 by Wilks and Moxon who were able to separate it from dysentery and infectious diarrhoea.

It is a disease in which there is inflammation of the lining (mucosa) of the large intestine causing diarrhoea and rectal bleeding.

• The rectum is always affected and is called proctitis.

• It may extend further along the left side to the splenic flexure, when it is know as left-sided colitis.

• The whole of the large intestine may be affected and the condition is known as Pancolitis.

The number of people affected by ulcerative colitis is approximately 170 per 100 000 of the population with around 7-12 new cases per 100 000 of the population being reported each year.

It has a worldwide distribution but tends to be more common in the Western Hemisphere.

It can occur at any age but most commonly presents between the ages of 20-60.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease with periods of remission, in which patients are symptom-free, and relapses in which symptoms flare-up. The onset may be gradual or sudden.

Medical treatment is usually successful in keeping most patients in remission until the disease slowly burns itself out. However, occasionally, surgery may be necessary if medical treatment fails, or if the risk of cancer in extensive colitis becomes too great.