Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Dealing with chronic stomach pain and diarrhea can impact a person’s everyday life. Luckily, a gastroenterologist may be able to help diagnose and treat the problem.

Bergen Medical Associates is a multi-specialty medical provider for patients in the Northern New Jersey area, offering services in gastroenterology, internal medicine, and more. For more than 25 years, Bergen Medical Associates has been a leader in comprehensive care for gastrointestinal diseases and disorders. Here, we discuss ulcerative colitis (UC), the symptoms to be aware of, and when to see a doctor.

Person holding stomach in pain with a diagram of large intestine superimposed on image

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The lining of the large intestine gets inflamed and develops small ulcers that produce pus and mucus and even bleed. These ulcers lead to the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis originates in the rectum but can spread to higher areas of the large intestine, even affecting the entire length of the intestine over time. People of all ages can get this disease, but it’s most common in people between the ages of 15 and 30.

What Are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?

The ulcers and inflammation in the large intestine are what cause the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. However, the symptoms can vary in each patient depending on how severe the inflammation is and where in the intestine it occurs. Patients with UC often go through periods of heightened symptoms, known as flares, and periods of lessened or no symptoms, known as remission. These symptoms can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood or pus in the stool
  • Rectal bleeding or pain
  • Urgent need to defecate
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency
  • Weight loss or appetite loss
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain or swelling

Less common symptoms include fever, anemia, and sores on the skin or in the mouth. Children with UC can experience delayed growth and development. Around 50% of people with ulcerative colitis have mild symptoms, but the rest have moderate to severe symptoms. People who experience the above symptoms regularly should make an appointment with their doctor to discuss UC or other inflammatory bowel diseases.

What Are the Risk Factors of Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is thought to be related to an abnormal immune system reaction, but researchers aren’t yet sure of the exact causes of UC. However, there are a few factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing it. These include:

  • Genetics: UC can run in families, and people are four to eight times more likely to develop some type of IBD if they have a close relative with the condition.
  • Heritage: People of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage are approximately four times more likely to develop UC than other ethnic groups in the same country.
  • Microbiome: Studies have found differences in the microbiome (the microorganisms living in the human body) between people with UC and people without it, but further research is needed.

Other factors have also been linked to an increased risk of triggering UC, although not necessarily causing it, in people predisposed to developing the condition. These factors include taking several rounds of antibiotics, giving birth by C-section, having high levels of stress, and more.

Request an Appointment With a Gastroenterologist Today

If you experience frequent abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other painful and embarrassing symptoms, don’t wait to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Bergen Medical Associates is the place to trust for comprehensive gastroenterology care, with six convenient locations throughout Northern New Jersey. With more than 25 years of experience, Bergen Medical Associates is dedicated to diagnosing and treating patients compassionately and completely. Contact us today to request an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

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