Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which the lining of the large intestine (colon or bowel) and the rectum becomes inflamed. This inflammation produces tiny sores or ulcers within the lining of the colon. It usually begins in the rectum and spreads upward. It rarely affects the small intestine beyond the lower portion.

Discover the terms people use to talk about IBD and ulcerative colitis. Hover over the words below to get a full description of what each one means.

Autoimmune disease

A disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack its own healthy cells and tissues


Probiotic that may be helpful in easing IBS and IBD symptoms. Found in some dairy products.

Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR or sed rate)

Test that indirectly measures the degree of inflammation in the body


Abnormal connection or tunnel between an organ, vessel, or intestine and another structure, often resulting in pain, discomfort, and infection


A procedure that removes a sample of tissue to find out more about a disease or condition


Group of medications used to treat inflammation of the gut or inflammatory bowel disease. Also commonly used to treat and prevent UC flare-ups.

Back Gas

Slang term to describe gas that backs up in a stoma pouch and causes it to expand

Bacterial recolonization

A second or renewed colonization of bacteria sometimes used to manage the symptoms of colitis

Barium Enema

X-ray exam that can help a doctor detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine


Pressure from gas that builds up in the stomach and intestines, intermittently expanding the abdomen

Clench Up

Term for squeezing the rectum together to avoid leakage

Crohn's disease

Serious inflammatory condition that can affect the entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, bloody stools, and ulcers.


Someone who has Crohn's disease


Partial or total removal of the large bowel through surgery


The last major portion of the intestinal tract. Also known as the large intestine.


Exam used to detect changes or abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum. A tiny video camera attached to a long, flexible, lighted tube allows the doctor to view the inside of the entire colon.

Computed tomography (CT) scan

Imaging that combines a series of X-ray views taken from different angles with computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the bones and soft tissues inside your body


Difficulty or trouble in emptying the bowels, often a result of hardened feces

Digital rectal exam

Usually associated with a prostate exam for men. It can also be used when examining the rectum to feel for signs of hemorrhoids, polyps, or tumors.

Distal colitis

Term to describe those forms of UC involving the rectum and colon up to the mid portion of the descending colon, otherwise known as the left colon


Common condition of the digestive system that causes inflammation and infection of a small outpouching of the colon, called a diverticulum. When not inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulosis.


Term for an outpouching, or a hollow or a fluid-filled structure of an organ


Exam in which a healthcare provider looks within the digestive tract using an endoscope, or a lighted instrument with a camera. It can help a doctor evaluate, diagnose, and treat certain conditions inside of the digestive system.

Flare or flare-up

Sudden appearance or worsening of a condition’s or disease's symptoms

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Procedure that allows your doctor to examine the inside of the rectum and the lower colon using a lighted camera

Gastrointestinal (GI) tract

Large organ system, going from the mouth to the anus, that's responsible for consumption, digestion, absorption of nutrients, and expulsion of waste


Swollen and inflamed veins within the rectum and around the anus. When aggravated, they are painful and itchy and may also bleed.

"Wet Fart"

Slang term for passing gas with solid waste. See also "shart."


Open sore

Ulcerative Proctitis

Form of UC in which bowel inflammation is limited to the rectum


Formation or development of an ulcer

Toxic megacolon

A life-threatening complication associated with IBD. Toxic megacolon is a sudden dilation (widening) of the large intestine, making it ineffective as an organ. It requires immediate medical attention and hospitalization for treatment.

Total proctocolectomy

Surgical removal of the entire large bowel and rectum


Used to describe the constant feeling of needing to empty the bowel, accompanied by involuntary straining efforts, pain, and cramping with little or no fecal output. Often confused for constipation.

Stool analysis

Series of tests done on a stool (feces) sample to help diagnose certain conditions affecting the digestive tract

Immune system

The body's defense against infectious organisms and other invaders

Stoma bag

Another term for a colostomy bag


Swollen, irritated, or painful tissue anywhere in the body

Spastic colon

A common alternative name for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Sigmoid colon

The S-shaped curve of the lower part of the large intestine that connects the descending colon and the rectum

Inflammatory bowel disease

Group of inflammatory diseases affecting the GI tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease


Slang term for passing gas with solid waste. See also "wet fart."


Portion of the GI tract that carries food and waste from the stomach to the rectum. The intestinal tract contains both the small intestine and the large intestine (colon).


Absence of chronic disease activity within a patient

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A diagnostic technique that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to produce a detailed image of the body's soft tissue and bones


Lower section of the large intestine

Pan-ulcerative (total) Colitis

Type of UC that affects the entire colon. Potentially serious complications include massive bleeding and acute dilation of the colon, which may lead to a perforation (opening) in the bowel wall.

Rectal urgency

The sudden and serious need to pass a bowl movement


Growth in the intestinal lining that can be noncancerous, precancerous, or cancerous. Your doctor might remove polyps during a colonoscopy.


Inflammation of the anus and lining of the rectum


Live bacteria and yeast that add to the good bacteria of your colon. Normally found in the body, but also found in supplements and foods like yogurt and kefir.

autoimmune disease bifidobacterium erythrocyte sedimentation rate (esr or sed rate) fistula biopsy toxic megacolon remission mri flare or flare-up digital rectal exam colonoscopy gastrointestinal (gi) tract immune system hemorrhoids barium enema computed tomography (ct) scan polyp back gas proctitis flexible sigmoidoscopy rectal urgency sigmoid colon total proctocolectomy ulcers spastic colon intestine diverticulitis bloating pan-ulcerative (total) colitis stoma bag inflammatory bowel disease stool analysis crohn's disease inflamed rectum crohnie diverticulum probiotics wet fart bacterial recolonization clench up distal colitis ulceration colectomy constipation tenesmus ulcerative proctitis aminosalicylates colon shart endoscopy