[Skip to Content]

What Does It Mean to Transition Health Care?

As teens with ulcerative colitis become adults, the health care provider who oversees their care will switch from a pediatric gastroenterologist to an adult provider. Planning for this transition can help teens take on more responsibility for managing their inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

When Should Teens With Ulcerative Colitis Transition Health Care? 

It depends on the person, but most teens with ulcerative colitis (UC) should transition to an adult health care provider when they're between 18 and 21 years old. Many young adults are going to college or moving away from home at this age. It's important for teens to learn how to take care of themselves and make independent decisions about their health.

How Can Teens With UC Prepare to Transition Health Care?

Starting as early as 12 years old, teens with ulcerative colitis can start to take charge of their health. Parents can supervise, then give more responsibilities as their child gets older.

To help prepare for this transition, teens should know:

  • about ulcerative colitis
  • when to get care
  • the names of all medicines, their dosages and when to take them, common side effects, and interactions with other medicines
  • if they have allergies to food or medicine
  • the answers to most questions about their health and medical history
  • how to:
    • schedule appointments
    • order refills
    • contact the care team
    • manage medical tasks outside of home
  • the consequences of not following the treatment plan
  • about insurance coverage and to always carry their insurance information with them

What Should Teens Do Before Going to College or Living on Their Own?

Before moving away from home, teens with ulcerative colitis should:

  • Have copies of their medical records, including medicines, allergies, immunizations, testing, and the gastroenterologist's name and phone number.
  • Find a gastroenterologist close to where they're living and coordinate with the doctor at home.

Teens going to college should:

  • Contact student health services to coordinate care with their gastroenterologist.
  • Contact the school's Office of Disability Services and talk to professors about accommodations and academic plans in case of illness.

Teens who start a job should:

  • Tell their employer how ulcerative colitis might affect work.

How Can We Find a Doctor Who Specializes in Ulcerative Colitis?

To find a doctor who specializes in caring for people with ulcerative colitis:

  • Ask your current health care provider for a list of gastroenterologists.
  • Contact student health services at the college for referral to local gastroenterologists.
  • Contact your local chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation or visit their website.
Medically reviewed by: J. Fernando del Rosario, MD
Date reviewed: September 2021