IBD: Ulcerative Colitis

Signs & Symptoms

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool and false urges to have a bowel movement.

  • Abdominal pain (cramping): Ulcerative colitis pain can be felt anywhere throughout the abdomen, but it is typically located in the lower left side.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea (frequent, loose or watery stools) can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, may involve as many as 20 or more trips to the bathroom a day.
  • Blood and/or mucus in the stool: Ulcers may form where inflammation has damaged the intestinal lining. These areas bleed and produce pus and mucus, which may appear in the stool.
  • False urges to have a bowel movement: The urge to have a bowel movement may arise frequently, even though there is little stool to pass. This urge is caused by inflammation of the rectum.

Other symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

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 (especially in children)
  • 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
  • Fever
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Eye redness / pain
  • Severe joint pains
  • Nausea / vomiting – inability to keep food / drink down

Who is at Risk of Ulcerative Colitis?

  • Age: Ulcerative colitis may affect any age group, although there are peaks at ages 15 to 30 years, and again at ages 50 to 70 years.
  • Race/ethnic background: Ulcerative colitis is more common among caucasians and in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
  • Family history: People with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with ulcerative colitis are at greater risk of developing the condition.

What Complications are Associated with Ulcerative Colitis?

Yes. There are some complications related to ulcerative colitis. Possible complications include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Dehydration
  • Perforated colon (a hole in the colon)
  • Kidney stones
  • Osteoporosis (loss of bone strength)
  • Toxic megacolon (severe abdominal swelling accompanied by a fever, rare)
  • Liver disease (rare)

People with ulcerative colitis are also at increased risk of developing colon cancer. The risk of colon cancer is related to the length of time since you were diagnosed and how much of your colon is affected by inflammation. However, a regular examination by your doctor and colorectal cancer screening tests can help to reduce the risk of cancer and detect problems early.

Signs & Symptoms

The most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in the stool and false urges to have a bowel movement.

  • Abdominal pain (cramping): Ulcerative colitis pain can be felt anywhere throughout the abdomen, but it is typically located in the lower left side.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea (frequent, loose or watery stools) can range from mild to severe and, in some cases, may involve as many as 20 or more trips to the bathroom a day.
  • Blood and/or mucus in the stool: Ulcers may form where inflammation has damaged the intestinal lining. These areas bleed and produce pus and mucus, which may appear in the stool.
  • False urges to have a bowel movement: The urge to have a bowel movement may arise frequently, even though there is little stool to pass. This urge is caused by inflammation of the rectum.

Other symptoms of ulcerative colitis may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Vomiting

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 (especially in children)
  • 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
  • Fever
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Eye redness / pain
  • Severe joint pains
  • Nausea / vomiting - inability to keep food / drink down

Who is at Risk of Ulcerative Colitis?

  • Age: Ulcerative colitis may affect any age group, although there are peaks at ages 15 to 30 years, and again at ages 50 to 70 years.
  • Race/ethnic background: Ulcerative colitis is more common among caucasians and in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
  • Family history: People with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with ulcerative colitis are at greater risk of developing the condition.

What Complications are Associated with Ulcerative Colitis?

Yes. There are some complications related to ulcerative colitis. Possible complications include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • Dehydration
  • Perforated colon (a hole in the colon)
  • Kidney stones
  • Osteoporosis (loss of bone strength)
  • Toxic megacolon (severe abdominal swelling accompanied by a fever, rare)
  • Liver disease (rare)

People with ulcerative colitis are also at increased risk of developing colon cancer. The risk of colon cancer is related to the length of time since you were diagnosed and how much of your colon is affected by inflammation. However, a regular examination by your doctor and colorectal cancer screening tests can help to reduce the risk of cancer and detect problems early.

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