Ulcerative Colitis Tests: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosing Tests for Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic, recurring disease where the large intestine is inflamed. It is one of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease after Crohn’s disease. This disease can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender and age.

Blood tests and stool samples helps diagnosis, but the important tests are the ulcerative colitis tests, which are the internal examination of the bowel and its biopsy. Treatment would involve taking medication or surgery. Recent studies suggest that ulcerative colitis can be cured, not limited to just control of the disease.

What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is a relapsing inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic health condition in which the small or large intestine swell up or the lining of the large intestine (colon) spots ulcers(sores). Very often the disease affects the sigmoid colon i.e. lower part of the intestine and the rectum. However, the ulcerative colitis is also known to affect the entire colon. In this case, the more the colon is affected the worse the symptoms of the disease will be.

There are two sub-types of bowel inflammatory disease:

  • Ulcerative colitis- this affects just the large intestine and the inner lining of the bowel,
  • Crohn’s disease- it can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract starting from mouth till anus.

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

Contrary to the popular belief that ulcerative colitis is caused by an infection, its definite cause is not yet defined. Hereditary ulcerative colitis is now an established theory. Experts believe that this disease is caused by the immune system’s over-reaction to normal bacteria in the digestive canal or other kinds of viruses and bacteria could be the main cause of the disease.

In an ulcerative colitis tests if both the parents have the disease, then the risk of their child having it too is high. In the case of identical twins, if one of them has it, there is a 50% chance of the other twin child developing the disease. This disease is much more common in the United States of America, northern Europe and in some people of Jewish descent.Few theories related to geographical and racial causes are now being accepted. Like high rate of ulcerative colitis in white people than black. But there is no known explanation yet for the exact cause.

What are The Symptoms of  Ulcerative Colitis?

Some of the Common Symptoms of  Ulcerative Colitis are:

  • Frequent Diarrhea
  • Bleeding rectum
  • Mucus in the bowels
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Painful and frequent bowel movement
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

The disease may also cause other health issues like joint pain, eye problems or the liver disease. Small ulcers in the lining of the colon could cause bleeding and the passage of mucus. Often the symptoms of ulcerative colitis might disappear, but they have a tendency to relapse. About 0.5 to 1% people out of a 100 may suffer from these symptoms all the time.

Tests to Diagnosis of Ulcerative Colitis

Your doctor may conduct a physical exam, get a history of the symptoms you suffer from and request for a number of tests. These diagnostic tests and procedures are done to differentiate and confirm it is ulcerative colitis and not another disease like the irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis.
To confirm the diagnosis following ulcerative colitis tests are conducted:

Ulcerative colitis tests can be suspected when a patient suffers from rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain. The blood tests done for ulcerative colitis may indicate anemia and signs of inflammation in the body. If it is suspected that the patient suffers from ulcerative colitis, an endoscopy would be recommended.

Endoscopy is one of the important diagnostic tests to determine ulcerative colitis. In this test, a small, flexible tube with a fiber optic camera is put into the rectum and the colon. This scope will then take images of the inner lining of the rectum and colon to check for signs of ulcers and inflammation inside. A biopsy of the inner lining tissue might also be done to check for the abnormalities of tissue.
A barium X-ray can also help in determining the exact portion of the colon affected by ulcerative colitis.

Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis

Treatment of ulcerative colitis can be drug based, with some dietary changes, and surgery (if need be). Although ulcerative colitis can’t be cured without a surgery, however, patients can lead a normal life by taking medicines. The aim of medication is to prevent further complications and reduction of inflammation in the intestine.

As soon as you see any of the symptoms like severe diarrhea and bleeding you must seek medical help. In the case of dehydration, admission to the hospital is a must. Having adequate nutrition and attention is important for a speedy recovery. In mild cases, stress reduction and modifying the diet can help you in managing the symptoms.


Medicines such as aminosalicylate drugs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents, and antibiotics must be used under the supervision of a medical practitioner to reduce the inflammation in the bowel tissues.


Certain foods may aggravate the symptoms when the disease is in an active mode. So take a diet plan as suggested by the doctor.


Surgery might be essential in case the dead portion of the colon needs to be removed (as the medicines become less effective). However, taking a second opinion is recommended in case the entire colon is to be removed.

Alternative Therapies for Ulcerative Colitis

Some patients suffering from ulcerative colitis also opt for alternative therapies like yoga, massage, acupuncture, and naturopathy. There is no clinical evidence to prove their merit. Seeking your medical practitioner’s supervision while you do any of these is advisable.

The only alternative for patients suffering from ulcerative colitis is surgery and the removal of the colon and rectum. The doctor might prescribe some medicines depending on your condition, but in some cases surgery is needed to cure the disease completely. If you are suffering from this disease, consult with your doctor well. You need to follow the treatment plan carefully to live longer and healthy.

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad