Colitis is a term for inflammation in the colon. Many different things can cause colitis. Ulcerative colitis is one type of colitis and may have different symptoms and treatment than other types.

Doctors may use similar tests and medications to help diagnose and treat colitis and ulcerative colitis (UC).

The conditions can affect people with other health problems, including diarrhea and arrhythmia. A family history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may increase your chance of developing UC.

Here, we talk about colitis and UC in more detail. We discuss their causes and symptoms, among other factors.

Colitis occurs when you have inflammation in your colon, and it can cause watery diarrhea and a high temperature.

Different conditions may increase your chance of developing colitis. These include bacterial infections and medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), aspirin, and statins.

UC is a form of IBD in which your colon and rectum are inflamed. You may have ulcers on your colon that may cause bleeding and produce pus.

An autoimmune reaction can trigger UC, and it happens when your immune system attacks the healthy cells of your intestines.

The condition can also run in families, but not always.

If you have colon inflammation (colitis), you may develop:

  • blood in your stool
  • fatigue
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain

Additional symptoms of UC include:

  • weight loss
  • anemia
  • growth problems in children
  • reduced appetite

Colitis can affect people with certain health conditions. If you have developed colitis symptoms, a doctor may also check whether you have a history of heart failure, arrhythmia, or nocturnal diarrhea.

Some people may have a higher chance of developing UC than others. These include those who:

  • are aged 15–25 years
  • have a family history of IBD
  • are of Jewish descent

A 2005 study looked into instances where collagenous colitis (CC) developed into UC. In some cases, colitis has also progressed to UC. The study showed that some types of colitis, such as CC and lymphocytic colitis (LC) may be part of an IBD spectrum.

Different tests may help your healthcare professional come up with a colitis diagnosis:

UC diagnosis uses similar techniques. You may take a fecal calprotectin test. Calprotectin is a protein that’s released by white blood cells known as neutrophils, and the test measures the amount present in your stool. It can determine if you have an inflammatory condition.

Read more about UC diagnosis.

Colitis and UC treatments are similar.

If you have colitis, your doctor may prescribe:

  • antibiotics if you have a high fever
  • steroids, depending on the type of colitis you have
  • antidiarrheals
  • biologics
  • 5-aminosalicylic acid (5-ASA) drugs
  • quitting smoking (this can be difficult but a doctor can help build a cessation plan that works for you)

The following may specifically be beneficial if you have UC:

Read more about UC treatment.

There are numerous types of colitis.

UC vs. ischemic colitis

Ischemic colitis develops when there is reduced blood flow to the colon. It can cause:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • lightheadedness
  • bowel movement urgency

The following factors may increase your chance of developing ischemic colitis:

UC vs. microscopic colitis

Microscopic colitis occurs when there is colon inflammation, and it affects around 700,000 people in the United States. It’s more likely to affect those who:

  • smoke
  • have an autoimmune disease
  • are age 60 and older

The condition can cause:

  • fecal incontinence
  • persistent, watery diarrhea
  • abdominal pain

UC vs. collagenous colitis

Collagenous colitis (CC) is one type of microscopic colitis in which collagen, a type of protein, develops under the lining of your colon.

Its symptoms are similar to the other forms of colitis, and they may include:

  • bowel incontinence
  • watery diarrhea without blood or pus
  • bloating

UC vs. lymphocytic colitis

Lymphocytic colitis (LC) is another type of microscopic colitis. It causes the same symptoms of CC, but it does not include the formation of the collagen layer. With this condition, people have buildup of lymphocytes, which are immune system cells that develop in your intestinal lining.

UC vs. infectious colitis

Infectious colitis develops when bacteria, viruses, or parasites cause inflammation to your colon. Its symptoms can be similar to those of microscopic colitis:

  • rectal pain
  • feeling like you need to pass stool (tenesmus)
  • fever
  • sweating

UC vs. acute colitis

Acute colitis is the term that a doctor may use if you have intense or severe symptoms. Research indicates that 25% of people with UC have acute severe ulcerative colitis (ASUC), which is a form of long-term IBD.

UC vs. pseudomembranous colitis

Pseudomembranous colitis is a serious inflammation of the lining of your large intestine that develops when there is an overgrowth of the Clostridioides difficile bacteria. You may also develop this condition if you have ischemic colitis, Behcet’s disease, or are undergoing chemotherapy.

This type of bacteria is found in the intestines, but it can cause colon inflammation if the number of your good bacteria decreases.

UC vs. nonspecific colitis

Nonspecific colitis refers to colon inflammation where the cause has not yet been identified. Doctors can usually provide a diagnosis after performing a colonoscopy with a biopsy.

UC vs. segmental colitis

Segmental colitis is a chronic form of inflammation that affects only a specific part of the colon. It may be associated with diverticulosis, a condition in which little pouches develop inside the lining of your colon.

Symptoms that segmental colitis is associated with diverticulosis (SCAD) can cause:

  • rectal bleeding
  • persistent diarrhea
  • abdominal pain

Colitis refers to a group of conditions that cause inflammation in the colon. UC is a type of colitis and usually involves typical symptoms of watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fatigue.

Laboratory tests, a colonoscopy, and stool tests may help your doctor reach a diagnosis. Medications, such as antibiotics and antidiarrheals, may help treat your symptoms.

Visit our dedicated IBD hub for more resources on UC.