Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the colon of unknown cause, characterised by episodes of active and inactive phases. UC and Crohn's disease are the two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Both conditions follow a fairly unpredictable relapsing and remitting course, with some similarities and some degrees of overlap in their behaviour. However, they can also have some wide-ranging differences in the complexity of their symptoms and management can be challenging.
The two conditions are lifelong. However, this does not have to mean patients enduring a lifetime of unpleasant or severe symptoms. The collaborative aim is disease remission and knowledge of strategies to apply to achieve this.
Patients have unpredictable periods of remission and periods of relapse. The unpredictable nature of IBD can cause considerable disruption to quality of life, affecting education, social, working and family life.
Appropriate patient-centred management is essential. This is the aim of an IBD multidisciplinary team, which includes specialist consultants and IBD nurses. The team works within a hospital setting, but clinicians manage most of their IBD patients outside of the hospital, via outpatient clinics, treatment clinics and, commonly, via a telephone nurse advice line.1