How to spot symptoms of ulcerative colitis

Written by wirnani garner
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Ulcerative colitis is a hereditary disease that causes chronic inflammation in the mucous membranes that line the surface of the large intestine and rectum. It is closely related to another type of intestinal inflammation known as Crohn’s disease -- with both of them collectively known as the inflammatory bowel disease. The cause of ulcerative colitis is due to an abnormal activity in the intestines’ immune system. A normal immune system is composed of protective cells and proteins that shield the body against harmful microorganisms (such as viruses and bacteria). When these microorganisms are present, the immune system provides a protective barrier that causes tissue inflammation. So basically, inflammation serves as a normal protective mechanism applied by the immune system. But in the case of ulcerative colitis, the activation of such protective mechanism takes place even without any harmful microorganisms present. The linings of the colon and the rectum just undergo inflammation for no apparent reason. This continuous abnormal activity will then lead to chronic ulcerations on the areas of the large intestine up to the rectum. Following this activity, are the occurrence of symptoms which are presented below.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Take your temperature to determine the existence of a high or low grade fever. High fever is common during the early sudden outbreak of the inflammation. This is usually accompanied with night sweats, nausea, crankiness, and excessive feeling of tiredness or weariness.

  2. 2

    Notice if you have cramps on the left side of the abdomen. Abdominal pain usually becomes intense before defecation and instantly ceases after defecation. Painful cramp is brought about by an inflammation that starts from the rectum extending up to the sigmoid colon and the descending colon (parts of the large intestine). These parts are anatomically situated on the left side of the abdomen so that is why pain is usually felt on this area.

  3. 3

    Observe if you are experiencing frequent intestinal evacuations or diarrhoea; this is usually characterised by the existence of soft stools or stools of liquid consistency. The patient abnormally experiences a sudden urge to defecate and does it 3 or more times.

  4. 4

    Pay attention to rectal bleeding. Periodic bleeding of the rectum is common on patients suffering from mild rectal inflammation. Those that have severe inflammation on the rectum often experience an inefficient and painful bowel movement.

  5. 5

    Look to see if you have blood on your stool. Presence of bloody stools or stools with pus usually happen to patients with inflammation on the rectum extending up to the sigmoid colon or on to the whole part of the large intestine. Here the blood on the stool is usually thick, and sometimes patients have stools that are of normal consistency but come out with pus or mucus on it.

  6. 6

    Think about how often you eat or drink. Loss of appetite will eventually lead to excessive weight reduction. Dehydration is usually secondary to diarrhoea.

  7. 7

    Consider other symtopms. Existence of symptoms that occur outside the colon but are indicative of ulcerative colitis which include the following: joint pain affecting the lower extremities and the upper extremities including the shoulders, ulcerations in the mouth, eye inflammation associated with discolouration or reddening, and presence of skin lesions that usually occur on the areas of the lower leg. All these may come prior to intestinal symptoms or they may occur along with intestinal symptoms.

Tips and warnings

  • Patients with ulcerative colitis must regularly visit their physician for checkups. Some cases may need surgery so it is important to constantly monitor the condition to prevent it from getting worse.

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