What are the Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis?

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis (UC) vary according to the extent and severity of the inflammation.

Mild disease

Inflammation is usually limited to the rectum or recto-sigmoid area, and causes diarrhoea, rectal bleeding or both. Mild UC can be mistaken for haemorrhoids.

Moderate disease

Symptoms become more severe:
  • Diarrhoea is a major feature with frequent loose stools containing blood.
  • Crampy abdominal pain which may be relieved by passing a motion.
  • Increased inflammation leads to general symptoms of mild fever, tiredness, fatigue, poor appetite and weight loss.
  • Symptoms may arise elsewhere in the body, e.g. arthritis, inflammation of the eye or skin.

Severe or fulminant disease

The onset is sudden with severe symptoms including:
  • Profuse diarrhoea with constant rectal bleeding.
  • High fever.
  • Tenesmus (a constant desire to have the bowels opened).
  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Distended (swollen) abdomen.
  • Abdominal cramps and tenderness over the colon.