Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease affecting the digestive system. UC causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the innermost lining of your large intestine. Those ulcers may bleed and can harm your digestion.

Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

The most common symptoms of UC are abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea and blood or pus in stools. Other symptoms may include:

  • Anemia
  • Depletion of body fluids and nutrients
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite and nausea
  • Growth problems in children
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Recurring fevers
  • Skin sores
  • Joint pain

People with mild cases of UC experience four or fewer bowel movements per day, while those with severe UC may have more than 10. Heavy cramping and constant bleeding often accompany bowel movements in people with severe UC.

If you have ulcerative colitis, there will be times when you have symptoms, and remissions. During remissions—which can last from months to years—people with UC are symptom-free.

Complications of Ulcerative Colitis

Colon cancer develops in about five percent of people with UC—usually those with UC affecting the entire colon over a period of years. The risk for people with UC involving only the rectum and lower colon is about the same as for people without UC.

Other UC complications affecting the colon include:

  • Severe bleeding
  • A hole or tear in the colon
  • Dangerous swelling of the colon

Inflammation from UC may also lead to complications outside the colon, which include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Severe dehydration
  • Inflammation of eyes, ski and joints
  • Liver disease

Use of anti-inflammatory medications may improve these conditions as well as symptoms of ulcerative colitis.