Colitis Vs. Ulcerative Colitis: What Is the Difference?

Medically Reviewed By Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
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Colitis is a condition where the lining of the colon becomes inflamed. Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that occurs in the colon and rectum. It can be a subtype of colitis. This article will discuss the differences between colitis and ulcerative colitis and their symptoms, types, and treatment options.

What is the difference between colitis and ulcerative colitis?

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Ulcerative colitis is a subtype of colitis.


Colitis is inflammation of the lining of your colon. It can be a short-term or long-term condition.If ulcers do not appear in your colon during an endoscopy, you may have colitis but not ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. It can affect both the rectum and the colon to different degrees. Mild ulcerative colitis may not cause inflammation. However, during a flare-up, your colon may become red and ulcerated.

There are different types of ulcerative colitis, which include:

  • Ulcerative proctitis: Inflammation occurs in the rectum and affects an area of less than 6 inches.
  • Left-sided colitis: Inflammation starts in  your rectum and can continue up your colon to the splenic flexure. This is an area close to your spleen.
  • Extended colitis: This affects your whole colon including the rectum.

Symptoms of colitis and ulcerative colitis

The symptoms of colitis and ulcerative colitis can include:

  • pain in the stomach
  • urgent need to go to the toilet
  • fever
  • tiredness
  • blood in your stool
  • feeling you need to empty your bowels, even when they are empty
  • watery discharge
  • unexpected weight loss
  • diarrhea

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis may cause symptoms outside of your colon. These can include:

  • painful joints
  • ulcers in the mouth
  • patches of sore skin
  • red and sore eyes

Other types of colitis

There are various types of colitis. Causes can range from an infection to inflammatory bowel disease.

Crohn’s colitis

Crohn’s colitis is also known as Crohn’s disease. It is an inflammatory bowel disease that can affect all of your digestive tract. However, it most often affects your small and large intestines.

Microscopic colitis

Microscopic colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease caused by inflammation in the lining of the colon. It is a chronic condition that occurs due to abnormal changes in your immune system. There are two types of microscopic colitis: lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis.

Ischemic colitis

Ischemic colitis is inflammation in your colon. It occurs when blood flow to the colon is reduced. This can happen when an artery that carries blood to the area is obstructed.

Infectious colitis

Infectious colitis occurs when inflammation in your colon is caused by an infection. This can be due to:

  • bacteria
  • viruses
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • parasites

Antibiotic-associated colitis

Antibiotic-associated colitis is inflammation of your large intestine that can occur after taking antibiotics. An overgrowth of the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. diff) can kill healthy bacteria, leading to inflammation.

Diversion colitis

Diversion colitis, also known as diversion proctitis, is inflammation of the colon and rectum. It can be a complication of certain intestinal surgeries, such as a colectomy or ileostomy.

Fulminant colitis

Fulminant colitis occurs when your intestinal wall is damaged. This can cause part of the intestines to stop contracting. Loss of muscle tone in the colon and trapped gas may then cause your abdomen to become distended.

Drug-induced colitis

Certain drugs may lead to colitis. These can include aspirin, nonsteroidal inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers, and immunosuppressive medications.


Can colitis become ulcerative colitis?



Ulcerative colitis is considered a type of colitis. Colitis is a general term that refers to inflammation in the colon. It may be used to refer to ulcerative colitis.

Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Diagnosing colitis and ulcerative colitis

To diagnose colitis or ulcerative colitis, your doctor will start by asking questions about your symptoms. They may then order tests to confirm the diagnosis. These tests can include:

  • blood tests
  • stool tests
  • stomach or rectal examinations
  • X-ray

If your doctor suspects ulcerative colitis, they may suggest tests to examine the inside of your rectum and colon. These tests involve a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. They may also take a biopsy of the lining of your bowel to help diagnose your condition.

Learn more about how doctors diagnose ulcerative colitis.

Treatment for colitis and ulcerative colitis

There are several treatment options for colitis or ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis 

Treatments for ulcerative colitis will depend on whether your condition is mild or you are experiencing a flare-up. They include:

  • Dietary changes: Avoiding spicy and high fiber foods may help reduce symptoms.
  • Medication: Medications can suppress inflammation and help the tissue in your colon to heal. They can also help reduce or eliminate symptoms. Medications are often taken on a regular basis to prevent symptoms from returning.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be an option if your ulcerative colitis is not responding to other treatments. Your doctor may suggest removing your colon and rectum and replacing them with an external or internal pouch.

Learn more about treatment options for ulcerative colitis.


Treatment for colitis can vary depending on the cause and severity of your symptoms. Treatment options include antibiotics and other medications.

You may not need treatment if a viral infection is causing your colitis. Your doctor may recommend drinking plenty of fluids and allowing your body to clear the infection on its own.


Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. It can occur in the colon and the rectum. Colitis is inflammation of the lining of the colon. Symptoms and treatments vary depending on the cause and stage of your condition.

Talk with your doctor if you have symptoms of colitis or ulcerative colitis. They can diagnose your condition and recommend effective treatments.

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Medical Reviewer: Youssef (Joe) Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 28
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