Conditions and diseases

Colitis ulcerosa

Symptoms and causes

Symptoms and causes

What is it?

Colitis ulcerosa is a form of ‘chronic inflammatory bowel disease’ (CIBD). Just like in Crohn's disease, in ulcerative colitis the lining of the colon can be inflamed for a long period of time (inflammation = infection). The big difference with Crohn's disease is that ulcerative colitis only affects the colon.

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The real cause of this chronic inflammatory reaction is not yet sufficiently known, but an exaggerated immune response of the body to its own large intestine probably plays an important role.

Symptoms and complaints

This disease typically has flare-ups, meaning a resurgence of the infection in the large intestine. This can result in symptoms of diarrhoea, stomach cramps, blood or mucus loss during bowel movements, general feeling unwell, fatigue and fever.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis and treatment

Testing and diagnosis

The examination to make the diagnosis is the colonoscopy (an internal examination of the large intestine), during which pieces of tissue (biopsies) are taken to be examined under the microscope.


The treatment consists primarily of medication to control the inflammatory reaction (resurgence treatment) or to keep it under control (maintenance treatment). We have an extensive arsenal of medication at our disposal, which can also be administered in various ways: in the form of pills, suppositories, enemas or directly into the bloodstream through baxters. Though this medication cannot provide a definitive cure, it can control the chronic inflammatory reaction. A definitive cure can be obtained by surgically removing the entire colon, because ulcerative colitis only affects the colon. Needless to say, this drastic measure will only be applied in exceptional circumstances.

Participation in a clinical study is a way for some patients to access the very latest treatment for ulcerative colitis.

More information

Further information can be obtained from the Crohn's and Colitis Ulcerosa Association website: and in bookshops: Living with long-term intestinal diseases (Lannoo/Terra).

Treatment centres and specialisations

Treatment centres and specialisations

Latest publication date: 15/05/2024
Supervising author: Dr Monsaert Els