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Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis, often simply called colitis, is a chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine (the colon) that affects its lining and causes small sores (ulcers) to form. The condition usually involves the lower colon and the rectum but can affect the entire large intestine. Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Most people with colitis are diagnosed before the age of 30, although the condition can develop at any time of life, from childhood to middle age and beyond. Caucasians and Jews have a greater incidence of the disease than do other populations.

Ulcerative colitis occurs when the immune system attacks gut bacteria and the cells lining the colon, causing inflammation. The exact cause isn't yet determined. As in other types of IBD, heredity seems to play a role. About 12 percent of people with ulcerative colitis have a close relative who has either the same condition or Crohn's disease. It's also thought that environmental factors – such as viruses, bacteria or other antigens – may trigger the immune system activity that results in colitis.

Our Approach to Ulcerative Colitis

UCSF provides comprehensive evaluations and advanced care for all types of IBD, including ulcerative colitis. Our team includes many types of specialists – such as gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, immunologists, nutritionists and psychologists – who work collaboratively, including with each patient, to devise treatment plans that optimize wellness and meet individual needs. Our overarching goal is to improve our patients' quality of life.

In addition to caring for patients, our doctors are active in research to develop new therapies for IBD and, ultimately, a cure. Interested patients may have the option to receive investigational treatments by participating in clinical trials.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • One of the nation's best in gastroenterology & GI surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.