colon on fire

What Does a UC Flare-Up Look Like?

The question “what does a UC flare-up look like?” is a common one.

For those asking because you are newly diagnosed and aren’t sure what your body might be experiencing, I completely understand and know how overwhelmed you must be feeling. Your instinct to ask questions and try to be as prepared as possible is such a positive thing.

However, I just want to remind you that the information you find on the internet might not always be reliable so it’s best to check with your doctor if you have any real medical questions.

For anyone else asking just out of curiosity or maybe you have a loved one with ulcerative colitis, please understand that UC is very complex and is different for every single person who has it.

A UC flare goes beyond the colon and can affect the entire body

Ulcerative colitis is one of two types of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The other one is Crohn’s disease.

Both diseases are considered chronic, autoimmune conditions. This means that the person’s entire body could be impacted by a flare-up of disease activity since the immune system is very unpredictable and systemic. Ulcerative colitis doesn’t just affect the colon.

What is a UC flare-up?

The term “flare-up” can mean different things to different people. The clinical definition of a flare-up is measured by your lab work, imaging tests and/or scopes.

However, many people with ulcerative colitis still seem to suffer from fatigue and other symptoms even when in clinical remission. This is obviously very frustrating for patients and something I can personally empathize with.

What a flare-up looks like for me

Anyway, as stated at the beginning of this article, ulcerative colitis manifests differently in every patient. For me personally, when I was in a flare-up, I would have urgent and frequent trips to the bathroom.

I also wouldn’t be able to eat or drink anything. I would be in enormous pain. There would almost always be blood in my stool. I would feel very tired. Sometimes, I would have a fever.

Ulcerative colitis flares are different for everyone

There are some people who claim to be in the midst of a flare-up and can still work or go to school. Some can still exercise and do regular physical activity.

There are others whose lab work, imaging tests and/or scopes show they should be hospitalized but feel absolutely fine. There are others who can continue with their daily life but feel some on and off the pain, maybe are a little more tired than usual, aren't as hungry, and just feel kind of blah.

My advice on ulcerative colitis flare-ups

My point is, a flare-up looks different for everyone. If you personally have the disease, my advice would be to take notice of how flare-ups affect you while keeping in mind some of the big ones to look out for (blood in stool, urgent/frequent bowel movements, increased pain, etc.).

If you are a caregiver of someone with ulcerative colitis, it may be hard to not be able to fix or completely understand what it is your loved one is going through.

UC is very difficult for everyone to understand so trust me when I tell you, your loved one is having a frustrating time figuring it out him/herself. Give it time and try to make your own assessments. You will eventually see patterns.

What about you? What do flare-ups look like for you?

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