Complications and co-morbidities

Different co-morbidities can be related to ulcerative colitis. Some of them depend on the IBD being active and some appear independent of the phase of the illness.

In all phases of ulcerative colitis the patient may have various joint symptoms, most often arthralgia (joint pain). Sacroilitis (inflammation of the joints where the lower spine and pelvis connect) and ankylosing spondylitis can show symptoms independent of the phase of the illness. Arthritis (joint inflammation) is usually only present in the active phase of IBD. When joint symptoms appear, the possibility of other rheumatic diseases is ruled out.

Skin and eye ailments are also possible. Erythema nodosum causes purple, tender lumps especially in the legs and arms. Pyoderma gangrenosum is rarer and causes deep ulcers on the skin. Eye ailments include episcleritis (inflammation of the thin layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye) and iritis (inflammation of the colored ring surrounding the pupil).

The most common liver ailment is primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), which causes scarring within the bile ducts. It increases the risk of bile duct and colon cancer.

Chronic inflammation in the large intestine increases the risk of colon cancer. The cancer risk is highest among those who got sick at a young age and those whose illness is located in the left side of the large intestine or a larger area. Colon cancer in the family, sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and continuous, even microscopical inflammation in the mucosa increase the cancer risk.