Signs and Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that, similar to Crohn’s disease, can cause irritation, inflammation, and ulcers in the large intestine. This chronic disease is a result of the immune system’s overactive response, and is unfortunately incurable. People with this condition will struggle with symptoms throughout their entire life. Thankfully, it can be managed with treatment, but the first step is to recognize the symptoms.

Ulcerative colitis isn’t typically a fatal disease and the symptoms can vary from person to person with about half of all ulcerative colitis patients experiencing mild symptoms. However the following symptoms can have a major impact on your general health and quality of life…

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.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a weight loss expert who specializes in healthy living. She is dedicated to providing health-conscious individuals with the information they need to make great lifestyle choices that will make them look and feel better. In her spare time, Emily teaches Pilates at a local studio and enjoys activities like hiking, rowing and biking.