Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease of the large intestine (the colon) that affects about 500,000 people, predominantly under 30, and can eventually increase the risk of developing large bowel cancer.
Certain symptoms may signal that a person has ulcerative colitis. They can include bleeding with bowel movements, abdominal pain or bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or a combination. To confirm the diagnosis, testing is done, which may include a sigmoidoscopic exam, using a flexible instrument to visualize the rectum and lower colon; a total colonoscopy, allowing visualization of the entire colon; or a biopsy of the colon lining.
Although no medical cure exists for ulcerative colitis, a physician can prescribe medicine to relieve symptoms. Surgery may be recommended for chronic cases or when medical therapy fails. One of these surgeries is a proctocolectomy, which removes the entire colon, rectum and anus, with creation of a Brooke ileostomy (bringing the end of the bowel through the abdomen wall, where an appliance is constantly used to collect waste).