Signs And Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis
Recognizing the symptoms of ulcerative colitis is your first step toward knowing when your disease is in a flare and when to seek medical attention.
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary from person to person and about half of all ulcerative colitis patients experience mild symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your healthcare provider.
Loose and urgent bowel movements
Persistent diarrhea accompanied by abdominal pain and blood in the stool
What Are The Most Common Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
Early ulcerative colitis symptoms usually include things that could easily be overlooked. Dont be afraid to talk to a doctor if youre having any worries though, even if your symptoms seem mild. If symptoms are ongoing and start to feel more severe, like persistent pain in your abdomen or unintentional weight loss, you should seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis to watch out for, per the NIDDK:
Okay, so this isnt the most pleasant one to start with, but it is actually the most common ulcerative colitis symptomits also a pretty good tip-off that something isnt quite right and that you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Remember those ulcers we talked about earlier? Yeah, thats where the blood in your stool comes from, and you might also see mucus in there as well.
This is another pretty common symptom, and contrary to popular belief, those ulcers in the colon are not actually what causes the pain. Instead, its a combination of abdominal cramping and bowel distension that occurs due to the inflammation in the intestines, according to a 2013 study published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases.1
With all thats going on in the digestive tract with ulcerative colitis, nausea can sometimes be an issue. This occurs more often when symptoms are severe, or if the inflammation affects more of the large intestine, according to the NIDDK.
Medications To Treat Ulcerative Colitis
When treating ulcerative colitis with medications, our goals are to suppress inflammation, heal tissue, and relieve symptoms. Commonly used medications include:
- 5-Aminosalicylic acid : Given orally or rectally, to decrease inflammation in mild or moderate cases
- Corticosteroids: Given topically, orally, or intravenously to quickly decrease inflammation in moderate to severe cases
- Antibiotics: Given orally or IV to reduce intestinal bacteria, suppress the immune system, and treat infection
- Immunomodulators: Given orally or by injection to weaken the activity of the immune system to decrease inflammation
- Biologic agents: Given by injection or through a vein to stop the inflammatory reaction in moderate to severe cases
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Diarrhea And Rectal Bleeding
People with ulcerative colitis often experience watery diarrhea as well as frequent and sudden urges to have a bowel movement. For some people, the urge to have a bowel movement may occur so suddenly that it significantly disrupts their daily life. Some people need to have a bowel movement more than 10 times per day.
You may notice blood, pus, or mucus in your stools. You may also experience rectal bleeding if youre having a flare-up. Blood comes from ulcers along the surface of your rectum.
If you have uncontrollable diarrhea or notice blood in your stool, you should see a doctor. Diarrhea caused by ulcerative colitis can lead to medical emergencies like severe dehydration, a perforated colon, or .
Ulcerative Colitis Questions To Ask Your Doctor
Whether youâre worried your symptoms are UC, or you already have the condition and want more information, here are questions to ask your doctor:
- Are my symptoms a sign of ulcerative colitis or another condition?
- Are there different kinds of UC? Do they have different symptoms?
- What tests will I need?
- If I have ulcerative colitis, what will my treatment plan be?
- Will changing my diet or lifestyle help ease my symptoms?
- How serious is my ulcerative colitis?
- If I take medication for ulcerative colitis, will there be side effects?
- Should I take nutritional supplements like probiotics?
- How often will I need to come in for checkups?
- What should I do if my symptoms suddenly get worse?
- How do I know if my ulcerative colitis is getting worse?
- How do I know if I should change my ulcerative colitis medication?
- Should I consider surgery? What does surgery involve?
- What is my risk of getting colon cancer?
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How Can I Find Support After An Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis
When taking care of your physical well-being, dont forget that ulcerative colitis can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being too. If it turns out your symptoms are ulcerative colitis, you can find a support group, or ask your doctor if they can connect you with a therapist or G.I. psychologist. Dr. Riehl, for example, works with patients on aspects of body image and even connects them with other patients who have experienced colectomy or ostomy . We talk openly about the impact that it can have on them from an intimacy perspective to how it impacts their self-identity, she says.
Since ulcerative colitis often starts at an age when people are thinking about their first job or starting a family, it can be particularly tough. One of the reasons that I and several of my colleagues went into this field is precisely because of thatso that we can hopefully make a difference in peoples lives early, and have them be able to lead productive and complete lives by putting their disease in remission, Dr. Sinha says.
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When To Get Medical Advice
You should see a GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms of ulcerative colitis and you have not been diagnosed with the condition.
They can arrange blood or stool sample tests to help determine what may be causing your symptoms.
If necessary, they can refer you to hospital for further tests.
If you have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and think you may be having a severe flare-up, contact a GP or your care team for advice.
You may need to be admitted to hospital.
Outlook For People With Ulcerative Colitis
If you have UC, a doctor will need to monitor your condition, and youll need to carefully follow your treatment plan throughout your life.
The only true cure for UC is removal of the entire colon and rectum. Your doctor will usually begin with medical therapy unless you have a severe complication that requires surgery. Some people will eventually require surgery, but most do well with nonsurgical therapy and care.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis
The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are cramping belly pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include:
- blood in the toilet, on toilet paper, or in the stool
- urgent need to poop
- low energy
- weight loss
Ulcerative coliits can cause other problems, such as rashes, eye problems, joint pain and arthritis, and liver disease. Kids with ulcerative colitis may not grow well as well as other kids their age and puberty may happen later than normal.
So What Exactly Is Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative Colitis is a condition that affects the digestive tract and is a form of irritable bowel syndrome. It causes inflammation and ulcers inside the digestive tract specifically in the large intestine and rectum.2 This disease develops over time and doesnt suddenly onset but if left untreated can become life threatening with developments into other health disorders. Whilst there is no exact cure early detection has been proven to be life saving and help patients into long term remission.
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Natural Remedies To Offset Signs And Symptoms
If youre experiencing pain and swelling in this area its always recommended to see a medical professional. There are lifestyle changes you can make to stop this condition from occurring in the beginning which include a healthy diet and exercise with no smoking. Focusing on foods that are high in probiotics, ginseng, Psyllium seed, bromelain and turmeric have been noted to help the digestive tract.
What Are Ulcerative Colitis Treatment Options
Depending on the location and severity of your case of ulcerative colitis, there are different treatments that can help you feel better. For a long time, corticosteroids were the main form of medical treatment for IBD, but they can potentially have adverse effects when used long-term. With more research, options like immunosuppressants arrived. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , the newest type of medication approved for the treatment of IBD is biologics. These medications are made from living thingsrather than chemical compoundsand work to target proteins made by the immune system to reduce inflammation. If medication isnt effective, surgery is also an option.
Dr. Sinha emphasizes that keeping your health care team informed is key to managing ulcerative colitis. Having this regular communication helps facilitate labs, imaging, or endoscopy that may be necessary, he says. It also allows the providers to understand many other facets of the disease’s impact on the patient, such as the psychosocial impact.
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What Causes Ulcerative Colitis Flareups
When youre in remission from ulcerative colitis, youll want to do everything you can to prevent a flareup. Things that may cause a flareup include:
- Emotional stress: Get at least seven hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly and find healthy ways to relieve stress, such as meditation.
- NSAID use:For pain relief or a fever, use acetaminophen instead of NSAIDs like Motrin® and Advil®.
- Antibiotics: Let your healthcare provider know if antibiotics trigger your symptoms.
What Causes Ulcerative Colitis
Researchers think the cause of ulcerative colitis is complex and involves many factors. They think its probably the result of an overactive immune response. The immune systems job is to protect the body from germs and other dangerous substances. But, sometimes your immune system mistakenly attacks your body, which causes inflammation and tissue damage.
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What Should I Ask My Doctor
If you have ulcerative colitis, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- How much of my large intestine is affected?
- What risks or side effects can I expect from the medication?
- Should I change my diet?
- Will ulcerative colitis affect my ability to get pregnant?
- What can I do at home to manage my symptoms?
- What are my surgical options?
What Are The Complications Of Ulcerative Colitis
UC can also lead to complications, especially if left untreated or if you dont follow the directions for your medications to a T . Common complications of UC include:
Rectal bleeding, which can lead to iron-deficiency anemia
A rupture of the bowel
Increased risk of colon cancer
Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which can lead to bone loss in the form of osteopenia or osteoporosis
Inflammation throughout the body, such as the eyes, skin, and joints
If youve had surgery for UC, keep in mind there may be surgical complications as well. Talk with your doctor about any warning signs to watch for.
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What Are The Different Classifications Of Ulcerative Colitis
Doctors often grade UC based on symptoms and blood work results, classifying the disease as mild, moderate or severe.
Table: Classification of ulcerative colitis
|72% of patients have mild disease||27% of patients have moderate disease||1% of patients have severe disease at presentation|
Living With Uc: Probiotics
These friendly bacteria are similar to those that live in your intestine and prevent the growth of too many harmful bacteria. We need more research to know if probiotics can help with ulcerative colitis. You can find probiotics in some yogurts, milk, tempeh, and soy beverages. Or you can buy them as supplements.
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Alarm Symptoms Of Ulcerative Colitis:
If you are already diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, there are several alarm symptoms to look out for. A change in your ulcerative colitis symptoms may mean that additional treatment is needed. Talk to your doctor immediately if you experience a new symptom, a change in your current symptoms or any of the following:
- An unusual amount of cankers or sores in your mouth
- Unexplained or unintentional weight loss
- Failure to gain weight
- Delayed puberty in teens
- Drainage of pus from, or severe pain near, the anus which is usually caused by an abscess.
- Anemia this blood condition results in fatigue and weakness. It is usually caused by heavy blood loss or a lack of dietary iron
- Rectal bleeding
What Can I Expect If I Have A Diagnosis Of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a lifelong condition that can have mild to severe symptoms. For most people, the symptoms come and go. Some people have just one episode and recover. A few others develop a nonstop form that rapidly advances. In up to 30% of people, the disease spreads from the rectum to the colon. When both the rectum and colon are affected, ulcerative symptoms can be worse and happen more often.
You may be able to manage the disease with medications. But surgery to remove your colon and rectum is the only cure. About 30% of people with ulcerative colitis need surgery.
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What Is Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms Causes Diagnosis And Treatment
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease in which the lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed.
The small intestine is rarely affected.
There are several subtypes of ulcerative colitis, which are named according to the part of the colon affected:
- Ulcerative proctitis, which affects only the rectum
- Proctosigmoiditis, which affects the rectum and lower segment of the colon
- Left-sided colitis, which affects the rectum, sigmoid colon, and descending colon up to the sharp bend near the spleen
- Pan-ulcerative or total colitis, which affects the entire colon
Living With Ulcerative Colitis
With careful management, most people with UC are able to enjoy life, including work, travel, recreation, sex and having children.
To keep healthy, consider:
- eating a nutritious diet to help with healing and reduce fatigue
- keeping a food diary to check if there are any foods that make your symptoms worse during a flare-up
- asking your doctor about supplements if you think you may be malnourished
- exercising regularly to lift your mood and help relieve stress
- learning some relaxation techniques to help manage stress
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When To See A Doctor
For people with ulcerative colitis, it can be challenging to know which symptoms are an emergency, which should prompt a call to the gastroenterologist, and which can wait.
After doing well and having few or no symptoms, when symptoms begin again, it is a reason to call the doctor and get evaluated for a potential flare-up. It may be necessary to change treatments or adjust the current care plan in order to get any inflammation under control quickly.
Ulcerative Colitis Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
In general, symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, excessive bleeding, and signs of dehydration are a reason to seek medical care right away. When possible, calling the gastroenterologist before going to the hospital might help in deciding what level of care is needed.
However, if treatment is needed right away, going to the emergency department may be the best choice. If a serious condition such as a bowel perforation or toxic megacolon is suspected, it may be necessary to call 911, because these are medical emergencies.
Are There Treatments Available
There are multiple treatments available to a patient with this condition depending on its severity. These drugs have worked well for some and not so well for others so its important to consult with a specialist on the best path of action for you. The most common forms of treatment for Ulcerative Colitis include:
- Anti Inflammatory Drugs Considered one of the first steps in treating this condition anti inflammatory drugs can begin to help reduce inflammation in the colon area. There is a wide range of anti inflammatory drugs available on the market.
- Immune System Suppressors Because Ulcerative Colitis is caused by the immune system making a mistake in the colon it can often be treated by suppressing this function. There are multiple forms of immune system suppressors including Tofacitinib , Cyclosporine and Azathioprine .
- Surgery For some advanced stages of this condition surgery may be considered if it has become life threatening. This surgery is quite invasive and involves removing the colon and in many cases it involves a procedure called ileoanal anastomosis surgery. This is why it is very important to know and understand early warning signs of this condition to detect it early.
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