The common symptoms of ulcerative colitis are similar to that of the other inflammatory bowel diseases, which is why it can be a bit confusing to diagnose. When consulting a doctor, it’s very important to be honest about your symptoms because the treatment plan that’s appropriate for you usually depends on this factor.
Talk to Your Doctor If You Experience Any of These Telltale Signs
The symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur when you enter the “flare-up” phase, and they usually lessen or disappear once the disease reaches a remission period. The usual warning signs of a flaring ulcerative colitis include:1
Tenesmus (an urge to move your bowels even if you’ve just emptied your colon)
It’s hard to predict when ulcerative colitis will flare. The symptoms that you may encounter from each flare-up may also change or worsen. Often times, these symptoms help determine how severe your ulcerative colitis is.
Ulcerative Colitis May Also Cause Symptoms Outside the Gastrointestinal (GI) Tract
Keep in mind that the symptoms of ulcerative colitis are not limited to the GI tract. This disease may also affect other parts of the body, particularly the skin and bones. Here are some of the extraintestinal symptoms that you should watch out for:2
Eye itchiness, redness and pain
Painful and swollen joints
Skin rashes, bumps and ulcerations
Clubbing of fingers
Understanding the Severity of Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms
If you’re diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, you should know how to determine the severity of your symptoms in order to treat this disease before it gets worse, or at least prevent fatal complications from occurring. Here are the classifications of its warning signs:3
- Mild: People who are suffering from mild ulcerative colitis symptoms usually release bloody loose stools less than four times per day and experience mild abdominal pain.
- Moderate: Moderate symptoms include four to six loose bowel movements per day, which is also accompanied by bloody rectal discharge, moderate abdominal pain and anemia.
- Severe: Those who are experiencing severe ulcerative colitis symptoms release loose stools more than six times a day. This is accompanied by rectal bleeding, fever, anemia and increased heart rate.
- Fulminant: Fulminant symptoms include abdominal tenderness, more than 10 loose bowel movements per day, constant rectal bleeding, fever, anemia and rapid heartbeat.
Ulcerative colitis may also lead to other complications that require urgent medical attention. These complications include enlargement of the colon (also known as toxic megacolon) and holes on the intestinal wall.4 Some people with ulcerative colitis develop serious conditions outside the GI tract as well, including kidney stones, bone diseases and even liver disorders.
Mortality in Ulcerative Colitis
According to studies, the mortality risk for ulcerative colitis patients is 1.7 times higher than that of the general population.5 However, this is not due to ulcerative colitis itself. Rather, these deaths are caused by the complications brought about by this disease.
For instance, patients who are suffering from extensive inflammation are at a higher risk of dying from fatal gastrointestinal and lung diseases.6 This is exactly why it’s important that you diagnose and treat this disease the moment that you observe its symptoms from your body.