Some of the complications that can arise from colitis include toxic megacolon, pancolitis and blood transfusions. Patients who have ulcerative colitis confined to the end of the proctosigmoid or left colon (proctosigmoiditis) or to the rectum (proctitis) rarely come up with complications. For those with a wider ranging condition, weak blood flow can occur resulting in anemia. This may necessitate treatment with iron augmentation or for worse cases, blood transfusions. When serious inflammation happens, the colon (although rarely) can expand to a large size. This is what is clinically termed a toxic megacolon. Toxic megacolon can cause severe symptoms like malnutrition, dehydration, abdominal distention and pain and fever. If medication fails to improve the condition of the patient suffering from this disease, immediate surgery is usually required to prevent the rupturing of the colon.


Another worse complication that can stem from chronic ulcerative colitis is colon cancer. A person with longstanding colitis for up to 10 years is at high risk for cancer. Acute ulcerative colitis patients are not at risk of developing colon cancer. Patients having chronic active pancolitis for 10 years or more are at significant risk for colon cancer. The risk of colon cancer is also high for patients with chronic colitis that is restricted to the left side of the colon although not as higher risks as those with chronic pancolitis.

The occurrence of colon cancer related to ulcerative colitis rise the longer the disease stays. At 10 years of the disease the percentage rate of cancer cases is about 2.5%, at 30 years the number is at 7.6% and at 50 years, 10.8%. Patients with family histories positive for cancer of the colon, extensive colon involvement, long bouts of colitis and PSC (primary sclerosing cholangitis) are at high risk of also developing colon cancer.

Patients suffering from chronic ulcerative colitis for 8 years or less should get annual colon examinations. Early diagnosis and treatment can also mean early detection and treatment of colon cancer. A colon examination will entail biopsies or extracting of sample tissues to check for any development of precancerous cells in colon’s lining. The existence of precancerous cells will entail colectomy or removal of a part of the colon to ward off cancer.

Ulcerative colitis can have other complications that can affect the other parts of the body.

  • Patients suffering from ulcerative colitis can also have a likelihood to develop blood clots
  • Conditions of the bile ducts and liver can also be attributed to ulcerative colitis. One particular disease termed sclerosing cholangitis, can mean bile duct inflammation and frequent infections which lead to jaundice, recurrent fever, cirrhosis and most likely the urgency for a liver transplant.
  • Patients may also though rarely have erythema nodosum or red and painful skin nodules. Some may develop episcleritis or uveitis or red and painful eyes. These conditions are pretty serious since they can lead to permanent sight impairment.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is one form of arthritis that attacks the joints of the vertebrae of affected people. A high rate of ankylosing spondylitis cases have been noticed among patients having inflammatory bowel disease.
  • About a tenth of patients with ulcerative colitis go on to acquire inflammation of the joints (arthritis). Some of these patients suffer from low back pain caused by arthritis that has developed in the sacroiliac joints.


Tree of Life Acupuncture
1215 120th Ave NE #206
Bellevue, WA 98005
(425) 732-3201