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.

Watch the video for more information:


De juiste oorzaak van deze chronische ontstekingsreactie is nog onvoldoende bekend, maar een overdreven afweerreactie van het lichaam ten opzichte van de eigen dikke darm speelt waarschijnlijk een belangrijke rol.

Symptomen en klachten

Deze ziekte verloopt typisch in opstoten, dus opflakkeringen van ontsteking ter hoogte van de dikke darm. Hierbij kunnen dan klachten optreden van diarree, buikkrampen, bloed of slijmverlies bij de stoelgang, algemeen ziektegevoel, moeheid en koorts.

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 found on the website of the Crohn and Colitis Ulcerosa Association: and in bookshops: Living with long-term intestinal diseases (Lannoo/Terra).

Treatment centres and specialisations

Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik