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Ulcerative colitis toolkit

Clinician's toolkit

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and sores in the large intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, urgent and frequent need to go to the bathroom, and belly pain and cramps. 

Treatments for ulcerative colitis include medications, surgery or a combination. How to treat ulcerative colitis depends on the severity of the disease, past complications and response to earlier treatments. 

Guidelines for ulcerative colitis focus on how to use biomarkers for management of ulcerative colitis, therapies for ulcerative colitis, and how to care for patients who develop pouchitis after surgery. 

ulcerative colitis graphic

Ulcerative colitis guidelines

AGA’s clinical guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations to guide physician’s clinical practice decisions.

How to select the best drug therapy for your patients focusing on use of oral and topical 5-aminosalicylates (5-ASA) medications, rectal corticosteroids and oral budesonide. 

How to manage both outpatient and hospitalized adult patients using immunomodulators, biologics and small molecules.

AGA suggests against using antibiotics for the primary prevention of pouchitis. 

AGA suggests a monitoring strategy that combines biomarkers and symptoms, rather than relying on symptoms alone. 

For physicians

More clinical guidance for physicians

AGA provides clinical practice updates that present state-of-the-art guidance and include a combination of evidence-based information, and when not available, best consensus opinion to help clinicians manage care of people with ulcerative colitis.

For physicians


AGA University helps physicians learn about how to care for people with ulcerative colitis – including understanding disease progression and how to treat ulcerative colitis 

For patients

Patient resources

AGA’s GI Patient Center can help your patients understand ulcerative colitis: symptoms, tests, treatments, surgery, complications. Through My IBD Life find resources related to navigating the workplace, vacation, intimacy, family planning and more as a person with ulcerative colitis 

Patient FAQs

Ulcerative colitis FAQs

Learn more about ulcerative colitis, symptoms, testing and treatment below.

Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation (swelling) and sores (called ulcers) in the large intestine (colon and rectum), a part of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ulcerative colitis may start slowly and get worse for many weeks. It can have times of remission (times when you feel well) or times when it is mildly, moderately or severely active. More about ulcerative colitis 

While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, there are treatments that can help.  

Ulcerative colitis can happen at any age, but it is more likely to develop in people between the ages of 15 and 30, or older than 60 years of age.  

Most symptoms of ulcerative colitis relate to bowel movements. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary from person to person, based on where the disease is in the body and how bad the inflammation is. 

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are: 

  • Diarrhea (loose stool), which is often the first symptom. 
  • Blood in the stool. 
  • Urgency, or immediate need, to go to the bathroom. 
  • Increased number of bowel movements. 
  • Belly pain and cramping. 

Ulcerative colitis can cause other symptoms throughout your body. The inflammation of ulcerative colitis can also affect your joints or skin, leading to painful joints and skin rashes. During a flare-up, symptoms may go beyond those that affect the digestive system, including: 

  • Rashes or patches of red, swollen skin. 
  • Painful or swollen joints. 
  • Mouth ulcers. 
  • Red, irritated eyes. 

The diagnosis of ulcerative colitis will usually require an evaluation by a gastroenterologist. 

There are many tests your gastroenterologist can do to find out if you have ulcerative colitis. First, he or she will take your past health and family health info, listen to your symptoms, and do an exam to feel and listen to your belly. No one test makes the diagnosis, but testing is used to confirm the gastroenterologist’s clinical suspicion that ulcerative colitis is causing symptoms. 

Read more about tests for ulcerative colitis 

Treatment will depend on the severity of the disease, past complications, and response to earlier treatments. Treatment options for ulcerative colitis involve medications, surgery or a combination. More about treatment options for ulcerative colitis. 

Even with the availability of medicines to treat ulcerative colitis, surgery may still be needed to manage the disease. There are a few types of surgery that your gastroenterologist with discuss with you. More about surgery for ulcerative colitis. 

Yes. There are two main types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Ulcerative colitis is more common worldwide than Crohn’s disease. More about IBD. 

Consuming a wide variety of foods with fiber is important for gut health in patients with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. More tips about fiber 

If you have IBD, you need to work closely with your health care providers to make sure you are getting the vaccines you need at the right time. Review AGA’s recommendations for vaccines in adults with IBD.  

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