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