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Conditions We Treat - Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is one of the two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation in part of your digestive tract. It affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum and typically causes bloody stools and diarrhea.

While ulcerative colitis is rare in children, we do diagnose and treat young people with this disease.  Our doctors participate in a nationwide pediatric network to improve the diagnosis and treatment of UC in children.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of inflammation and where it occurs. See your doctor if you experience a persistent change in your bowel habits, or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis, such as:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Blood in your stool
  • Ongoing bouts of diarrhea

Learn more about ulcerative colitis in our health information library.

Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis at Penn State Hershey's IBD Center

Penn State Hershey's Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center is a leader in IBD diagnosis and treatment, caring for more than 5,000 patients each year with IBD. It is important to have your ulcerative colitis diagnosed accurately so that a doctor can pinpoint your inflammation, determine how serious it is, decide on how best to treat it, and evaluate whether you are at increased risk for developing colon cancer.

When in our care for your UC, you may receive one or more of these tests:

  • Special blood and stool tests
  • Colonoscopy
  • Chromoendoscopy
  • Therapeutic Endoscopy (endoscopic mucosal resection or endoscopic submucosal dissection)
  • Specialized X-rays, CT scan

Non-Surgical Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis

Apart from surgically removing the colon, there's no known cure for ulcerative colitis. But, there are many successful therapies available that may dramatically decrease or eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms without the need for an operation. Some of the treatments we offer include:

  • Advanced drug therapies: We recommend several medications to reduce inflammation of the tissue in the colon, allowing it to heal and relieving symptoms. The most common medications include 5-aminosalicylate agents, steroids, immunomodulators, and biologic agents. Learn more about drug therapy and our clinical trials.
  • Nutrition Management: Our dedicated nutritionists will work with you to maintain a healthy diet that may help reduce your symptoms, replace lost nutrients, and promote healing. Read more about our nutrition therapy program.

Advanced Surgical Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis

If you have been treated for your ulcerative colitis with medications, and those medications have not provided sufficient relief, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove your colon. Removing the colon is the only real cure for ulcerative colitis. An estimated 25 to 40 percent of patients with ulcerative colitis eventually require this procedure. It is typically necessary to remove the entire colon, otherwise the disease tends to recur in the portion of colon that is left behind.

If you and doctor decide that surgery is the next step in your treatment plan, you will:

  1. Meet with one of our experienced colorectal surgeons who specialize in IBD surgery. You and your doctor will together discuss various possible surgical procedures that involve removal of your diseased intestine, including colectomy, and ileal pouch anal anastomosis. Your doctor may determine that you are a candidate for laparoscopy—a minimally invasive surgery that requires one or more small incisions in your abdomen instead of one large one. This approach typically allows for less scarring, faster recovery, and less pain.
  2. If an ostomy is necessary, meet with our stomal therapists and attend our weekly stoma education class. However, many patients with UC who require surgery are candidates for an ileal pouch and therefore will not have a permanent ostomy.

Ileal Pouch Expertise at Penn State Hershey IBD Center

Most of our ulcerative  colitis patients will not require a permanent stoma (ileostomy or colostomy). The ileal pouch anal anastomosis (IPAA) is a surgical approach that is an option for most patients. It is a technically demanding procedure that is typically performed only at specialty centers like ours. Ileal pouch patients maintain complete control over their bowel movements and experience them normally. Learn more about the procedure to create an ileal pouch.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment, or to refer a patient to our care, contact our dedicated IBD Coordinator at 717-531-3998 or the Penn State Hershey Careline at 1-800-243-1455.