Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Ulcerative colitis (UC) symptoms range from mild to severe. Symptoms may vary over time and from person to person, depending on what part of the large intestine is inflamed and the severity of the inflammationImmune response to tissue injury that causes redness, swelling, and pain.. Because symptoms are different depending on the person, the way to assess what you consider a symptom flare-up is relative to what is “normal” for you.

Ulcerative colitis symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain/discomfort
  • Blood or pus in stool
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent, recurring diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced appetite
  • Tenesmus: A sudden and constant feeling that you have to move your bowels

When discussing your UC with your doctor, it is important that you have an open and honest conversation about your symptoms, since your doctor will use that information to help decide what treatment plan is appropriate for you.

The chart below can help you understand the differences between mild, moderate and severe symptoms. Your doctor may use similar measures to determine your symptom severity. It's important to remember every person is different and symptoms may vary from person to person.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptom Severity

Mild

  • Up to 4 loose stools per day
  • Stools may be bloody
  • Mild abdominal pain

Moderate

  • 4-6 loose stools per day
  • Stools may be bloody
  • Moderate abdominal pain
  • Anemia

Severe

  • More than 6 bloody loose stools per day
  • Fever, anemia, and rapid heart rate

Very Severe (Fulminant)Symptoms of disease coming on suddenly with great severity.

  • More than 10 loose stools per day
  • Constant blood in stools
  • Abdominal tenderness/
    distention
  • Blood transfusion may be a requirement
  • Potentially fatal complications

After you have talked with your doctor about your symptoms, along with certain other tests and additional information, your doctor will create an appropriate treatment plan for you. It’s important to follow directions and take your treatment as prescribed. If you ever have any questions or concerns about your treatment, you should ask your doctor before making any changes or adjustments.

Ulcerative colitis is unpredictable and can be progressiveIncreasing in extent or severity. (get worse). Over time, your symptoms may change in severity or change altogether. You may go through periods of remission—when you have few or no symptoms. Your symptoms may also come on suddenly, without warning.

Tips for patients with IBD

Gastroenterologist Dr. Millie Long discusses 3 key tips for patients with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

Millie Long, M.D., M.P.H., is an Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The location of your disease may determine what kind of symptoms you have

The four types of UC and their symptoms:

  • Ulcerative Proctitis

    Affects the rectum. Symptoms include rectal bleeding, rectal pain, and a feeling of urgency.
  • Proctosigmoiditis

    Affects the rectum and sigmoid colon (the lower segment of the colon right above the rectum). Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, and a constant feeling of the need to pass stools (tenesmus).
  • Left-Sided Colitis

    Affects the rectum and extends as far as a bend in the colon near the spleen. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, pain in the left side of the abdomen, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
  • Pan-Ulcerative Colitis

    Affects the entire colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

To help you be prepared for unexpected symptoms, carry a Restroom Request Card* when you’re out and about. It can help you discreetly ask for access to restricted restrooms.

Complications of ulcerative colitis

In addition to painful symptoms, ulcerative colitis can lead to complications such as:

  • Profuse bleeding
  • Rupture of the bowel
  • Severe symptoms that do not respond to medication

Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove a damaged portion of your large intestine or repair damage caused by ulcerative colitis.

Along with the symptoms listed above, ulcerative colitis complications may include:

UC can affect more than the large intestine

Sometimes, ulcerative colitis causes inflammation outside of the large intestine, in areas such as:

Eyes

Skin

Joints

These symptoms are called extra-intestinalSituated or occurring outside the intestines. symptoms and can also be linked to inflammation. You should talk to your doctor if you experience any symptoms—even if they seem to have nothing to do with your digestive system.

Inflammation can lead to UC symptoms

Painful flare-upsThe sudden intensification of disease symptoms or the return of symptoms suddenly. occur when your large intestine is inflamed (raw, red, and swollen). Learn more about your ulcerative colitis symptoms and how they could be linked to damaging inflammation with Expert Advice.

Understand Your
Inflammation

Learn how it can play a role in your symptoms.

See Inside Inflammation

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

While its exact cause is unknown, it's likely a combination of factors—and not something you ate.

Learn More

How Your Medication Works

Take a look at the different kinds of treatments and what they do.

Review UC Treatments

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