Disease with Long-Lasting Intestinal Inflammation

Experts from Penn State Health Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center are leaders in the field of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Our team has been awarded top honors for exceptional IBD care, including being named on Castle Connolly’s list of America’s Top Doctors.

Ulcerative colitis is one of the two primary forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation in part of your digestive tract. It’s essential to have your ulcerative colitis diagnosed accurately so that our team can determine how serious it is, decide how best to treat it and evaluate whether you’re at increased risk for developing colon cancer.

If you or a loved one has ulcerative colitis, you’ve come to the right place. We offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary care to our patients. All of our IBD services are available at one location. Penn State Health gastroenterologists and colorectal surgeons share the same clinic for collaboration – and patient convenience, as you will be able to see multiple physicians during a single visit. We also have a dedicated IBD nurse navigator to help answer your questions and assist with your scheduling needs.


Symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary. Some patients experience only mild symptoms, while others have frequent severe attacks.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

  • Bloody stool
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea, varying in frequency
  • Feeling the need to pass stool even though bowels are empty
  • Gurgling in the intestine
  • Pain in the belly
  • Weight loss

Additional ulcerative colitis symptoms can include:

  • Joint pain
  • Mouth sores
  • Nausea
  • Skin lumps or ulcers
  • Slow pediatric growth
  • Swelling
  • Vomiting


At Penn State Health, we most frequently recommend a colonoscopy with biopsy to diagnose ulcerative colitis. The colonoscopy is also used to screen for colon cancer. Additional diagnostic tests to diagnose ulcerative colitis include:

  • Barium enema
  • Blood antibody test
  • Chromoendoscopy
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • CT scan
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Special blood and stool tests
  • Stool calprotectin or lactoferrin
  • Therapeutic endoscopy
  • X-ray


The outlook for patients with ulcerative colitis is positive with a specialized treatment plan in place. About half of ulcerative colitis patients respond well to medications and have mild symptoms; however, patients with more severe symptoms are less likely to respond well to medicines. A cure is possible only with complete removal of the large intestine.

Additionally, the risk of colon cancer increases each decade after ulcerative colitis is diagnosed. Ulcerative colitis patients also have a higher risk for small bowel cancer and complications of the colon and intestines.

Experts in Care

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

National Experts in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

The Penn State Health Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center experts are national leaders in the IBD field. Our team has been awarded top honors for exceptional IBD care, including being named on Castle Connolly’s list of America’s Top Doctors. We are proud to provide our patients with the latest in diagnostic testing, as well as a wide range of medical, dietary and surgical therapy options.

Penn State Health IBD BioBank

Penn State Health’s longstanding commitment to cutting-edge IBD research includes establishing the nation’s largest IBD BioBank, which includes DNA, blood and tissue samples from multiple generations of IBD patients. The IBD BioBank allows basic science research into the cause and potential new treatments of IBD.

Penn State Health, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, has also pioneered research in the field of personalized medicine. We’ve completed more than 50 studies and published over 100 nationally recognized IBD-specific research papers. The Penn State Health Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center conducts several clinical trials that are open for patient candidates. If you or a loved one have IBD and would like to participate in a clinical trial, please discuss your interest with your IBD specialist to get more information.

Specialized IBD therapies

Many therapies are available that may dramatically decrease or eliminate the uncomfortable symptoms of IBD. Some of the treatments offered at the Penn State IBD Center include:

  • Advanced drug therapies – our team will prescribe several medications to reduce inflammation of the tissue in the colon, which relieves symptoms and also allows it to heal. The most common medications include 5-aminosalicylate agents, steroids, immunomodulators and biologic agents.
  • Surgery – if medications do not provide sufficient relief, our team will carefully review your candidacy for surgery. Removing the colon is the only cure for ulcerative colitis. Between 25 and 40% of patients with ulcerative colitis eventually require this surgery.

Expert IBS Surgical Care

If the experts at the Penn State IBD Center determine that surgery is the next step in your treatment plan, rest assured that you’re in good hands. You will meet with one of our experienced colorectal surgeons who specialize in IBD surgery. During your consultation, you will discuss possible surgical procedures that involve the removal of your diseased colon, such as ileostomy or ileal pouch anal anastomosis.

Our team may determine that you are a candidate for laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgery that requires one or more small incisions in your abdomen instead of one large one. This approach typically allows for less scarring, faster recovery and less pain.

If an ostomy is necessary, you’ll meet with our stomal therapists and attend our weekly stoma education class. However, many patients with ulcerative colitis who require surgery are candidates for an ileal pouch and won’t need a permanent ostomy.

Support Groups

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Convenient Locations

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