A Guide to Ulcerative Colitis and Clinical Trials


Roughly 1 million people in the United States are affected by ulcerative colitis (UC), an autoimmune disorder that specifically affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum. UC triggers inflammation, ulcers, and bleeding, potentially resulting in a range of complications. 

There are multiple types of ulcerative colitis based on the location and extent of inflammation. These different types include:

  • Ulcerative proctitis 
  • Left-sided colitis 
  • Pancolitis
  • Acute severe colitis 
  • Fulminant colitis 

The symptoms of UC vary from person to person, depending on the severity and location of the inflammation in the colon and rectum. In almost all cases, it is a lifelong illness that has profound emotional, physical, and social impacts. 

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

The precise cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but the condition is believed to be triggered by both genetic and environmental factors, as well as an imbalanced gut. 

In UC cases, the immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy cells that line the colon and rectum. This causes inflammation and ulcers, which then result in the UC symptoms that most patients deal with. 

More research is needed to fully understand the underlying causes of ulcerative colitis, as well as the interplay of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to its development.

Who Gets Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) can affect people of any age, race, or gender, but it is more commonly diagnosed in young adults under the age of 30. It is slightly more common in women than men, but the difference is insignificant.

UC likely has a genetic component, as people with a family history of IBD are more likely to develop the disease. However, many people do not have a family history of the condition and still develop it, suggesting other factors are at play.  

Although the risk factors for ulcerative colitis aren’t clearly established, we do know that people who smoke are more likely to have a severe form of the disease than non-smokers.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Most people with ulcerative colitis have mild to moderate symptoms, although they can vary significantly from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms include… 

This is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of ulcerative colitis. Because the immune system attacks the cells in the lining of the large intestine and rectum, it can be difficult for the colon to absorb water from the stool. As a result, the stool can become watery and loose.

People with ulcerative colitis may experience abdominal pain and cramps due to inflammation and irritation in the lining of the colon and rectum. The inflammation can also cause the muscles in the colon to spasm, which contributes to cramping. These spasms can be painful and may be accompanied by urgency and the need to have a bowel movement.

Colon and rectum inflammation can cause the blood vessels to become swollen and irritated, leading to bleeding from the rectum. Blood may become visible in the stool, toilet bowl, or toilet paper and can be bright red or dark. In some cases, it may be mixed with mucus or pus. 

The amount of bleeding may vary depending on the extent and severity of inflammation, and it may be more pronounced during flare-ups.

People with UC may experience fatigue due to a combination of factors. The inflammation in the colon and rectum can cause the body to release cytokines, resulting in fatigue and weakness, especially during flare-ups.

In addition, ulcerative colitis can cause malnutrition due to poor absorption of nutrients from food. Malnutrition then leads to feelings of fatigue and weakness, as the body is not receiving adequate nutrition to support its energy needs.

Some people with UC may also experience anemia (too few red blood cells) due to prolonged bleeding from the rectum. Anemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath, as the body is not receiving enough oxygen to support its energy needs.

  • Weight loss
  • Joint pain 
  • Eye problems 
  • Fever
  • Nausea 
  • Joint pain
  • Skin rashes

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative proctitis 

This type of UC only affects the rectum and is considered to be the mildest form of the disease. Ulcerative proctitis is estimated to be present in up to 55% of UC patients at diagnosis. 

Left-sided colitis 

As this name indicates, this condition affects the left side of the colon, including the sigmoid colon and descending colon. It’s estimated that this kind of ulcerative colitis is found in up to 45% of UC patients

The symptoms of left-sided colitis are similar to the general symptoms of UC. However, this type of UC does present a high risk of toxic megacolon and anemia. 


This type of UC affects the entire colon, from the rectum to the cecum (where the colon meets the small intestine). It is less common than most other kinds of ulcerative colitis, affecting as few as 14% of UC patients

Acute severe colitis 

Acute severe colitis is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate hospitalization and treatment. It is most commonly characterized by severe inflammation in the colon and rectum, leading to symptoms such as serious abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, fever, and dehydration. 

It’s estimated that between 20% and 30% of UC patients require hospitalization at some point in their disease course due to acute severe flares (ASUC). 

Fulminant colitis 

This is a rare, very serious complication of ulcerative colitis. Research indicates that fulminant colitis affects less than 10% of people with UC. When it does, it can contribute to life-threatening complications, including toxic megacolon, perforation, and sepsis (infection in the bloodstream).

Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis

Healthcare providers are able to diagnose UC through a combined analysis of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. They may perform a colonoscopy to examine the lining and take internal biopsies. 

Other tests for ulcerative colitis may include blood, stool, and imaging tests, such as CT scans or X-rays.

Match With Ulcerative Colitis Clinical Trials

Have you been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis? You may qualify for a trial near you. Tandem Clinical Research is here to match you with:

  • Research groups in your area 
  • The latest treatments
  • Scientific clinical studies

Treatment for Ulcerative Colitis

There is currently no cure for ulcerative colitis. However, there are many treatment options that can help patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life with inflammatory bowel disease. 

Not all treatment options will be appropriate for every patient with ulcerative colitis. The best course of treatment will depend on the severity of the disease, individual symptoms and medical history, and preferences and lifestyle. 


Several types of medications can be used to manage the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including: 

  • Aminosalicylates 
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunomodulators
  • Biologics
  • Antibiotics

Lifestyle Changes 

People can make many changes to their lives to help alleviate the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. For instance, some may benefit from avoiding certain foods that trigger symptoms, such as spicy or high-fiber foods. Others may find that stress-reducing techniques make the biggest difference. 

There are also “alternative” treatment possibilities, such as taking probiotics to reduce inflammation or undergoing regular acupuncture sessions. 


Surgery may be necessary if prescribed medications do not effectively control the symptoms or if there are complications. The most common surgery for UC is a colectomy, which involves removing the entire colon and rectum.

Some patients also undergo ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA), a surgical procedure that creates a pouch from the small intestine and attaches it to the anus. This allows for normal bowel movements without the need for an ostomy bag.

How to Support Loved Ones With Ulcerative Colitis

If you have a loved one with ulcerative colitis, they will need your support and understanding as they battle their symptoms. Here are a few of the best things you can do…

Learn More About UC 

The first thing you can do is learn as much as you can about ulcerative colitis, including its symptoms and treatment options. This will help you understand what your friend or family member is going through and how you can support them. 

Be Patient 

People with ulcerative colitis may have to cancel plans last minute due to flare-ups and discomfort. Be understanding and flexible, and understand that their symptoms are often outside of their control. 

Also, try to be flexible when it comes to what people with UC can eat. Your loved one may need to eat certain foods and avoid others to prevent flare-ups. 

Offer Practical Support

If possible, assist your loved one with practical chores, such as running errands and meal preparation. These may seem like simple tasks, but they can be challenging for someone with ulcerative colitis, especially during a flare-up.

Be Positive and Encouraging

Lastly, try to be a source of positivity in your loved one’s life. Dealing with a chronic illness is never easy, and some extra encouragement can go a long way toward supporting your friend or family member. 

Ulcerative Colitis Clinical Trials

If you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, you have the opportunity to participate in clinical studies that help researchers obtain valuable information – both for your benefit and for the future care of others with inflammatory bowel disorder.

Researchers are currently studying many aspects of UC. This includes the assessment of…

  • new treatments for Ulcerative Colitis 
  • how genes and environmental factors increase the risk of IBD 
  • how ulcerative colitis develops and progresses 

All of the clinical trials we match patients with are conducted in trusted hospitals, universities, and research centers. If you’re interested in participating, reach out to find clinical trials in your area.

Match with Ulcerative Colitis Clinical Trials

If you live near New York City, Orlando, or New Orleans, Tandem Clinical Research will help you match with trials in your immediate area. We connect patients with trials conducted by reputable pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies.

There might not currently be a cure for ulcerative colitis, but ongoing research is working to find the best treatments. The more we learn, the more we understand why this condition occurs and how we can prevent and treat it.

Consider joining a clinical trial to contribute to the study of ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases – and to help others in your situation.

Together, we can move research forward.