Ulcerative Colitis

Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis affects an estimated 600,000 Americans. Similar to Crohn’s disease, this chronic condition ulcerates the tissues along the large intestine (or colon) and the rectum, causing painful inflammation of the inner walls.

Ulcerative colitis isn’t typically a fatal disease, however, the following symptoms closely associated with it can cause life-threatening complications…

1. Abdominal Pain

Like Crohn’s disease, during flare-ups, ulcerative colitis causes ever-present stomach cramping and stabbing pain, which is similar to the feeling of having to take an explosive bowel movement without being able to. During times of remission, abdominal discomfort will virtually disappear.

2. Constipation

One form of ulcerative colitis, a condition called proctosigmoiditis, primarily affects the lower colon and rectum. Due to its origin in the lower colon, bouts of bloody diarrhea followed by an inability to have a bowel movement (constipation) may alternate.

3. Severe Dehydration

Ulcerative colitis that runs along the entire length of the colon, causing ulcerations and tissue inflammation, is known as fulminant colitis. Due to the explosive diarrhea it causes, this form of colitis can cause severe dehydration and shock.

4. Rectal Pain and Bleeding

Ulcerative colitis that causes pain and inflammation only in the area of the anus (or rectum) is known as proctitis. This form of the condition is known to cause rectal bleeding as well as the constant feeling of having to take an urgent bowel movement.

5. Sudden and Significant Weight Loss

Pancolitis is a form of colitis that results in bouts of diarrhea so explosive, and sometimes bloody, that the patient will suffer from severe and sudden weight loss as well as associated fatigue due to dehydration and decreased absorption of calorie from foods.

6. Anemia

Anemia, usually of severe iron deficiency type, can occur if an ulcerative colitis patient suffers from bloody and explosive diarrhea. Due to the constant blood loss and bleeding from the rectum, the sufferer can become very weak. If you suspect you might be anemic, your doctor should perform a blood test to verify this possibility.

7. Urgent Diarrhea

Unfortunately, for many ulcerative colitis sufferers, the urgency to defecate is so overwhelming and pressing that they are unable to be too far from a bathroom, for even short periods of time. During periods of flare-ups, many patients are too embarrassed to leave the house, fearing an accident.

8. Fatigue

It’s common, due to explosive diarrhea as well as anemia, for those with ulcerative colitis to suffer from severe fatigue. They may also suffer from malnutrition, because they are unable to absorb the nutrients from the food they consume.

9. Fever

Oftentimes, when colitis flare-ups cause inflammation of the colon and the rectum, a mild to high temperature can develop as the body tries to fight the malnourishment, fatigue, nausea, and general malaise associated with the condition.

10. Inflammation of Major Organs

Other major symptom of ulcerative colitis are gassiness, bloating, and inflammation that starts in the colon. However, inflammation can extend to other organs, such as the upper digestive tract, cause pain and blockages in the small intestine.

Dr. Gerald Morris

Dr. Gerald Morris

Gerald Morris, MD is a family medicine/internal medicine physician with over 20 years expertise in the medical arena. Dr. Morris has spent time as a clinician, clinical research coordinator/manager, medical writer, and instructor. He is a proponent of patient education as a tool in the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions.