When your ulcerative colitis is in remission, your bathroom habits won't draw attention to you at work.
It's when flares start that you may feel like all eyes are on you. You might suddenly have to stop what you're doing and run to the bathroom -- a lot. That can be especially inconvenient if you keep leaving a meeting or a job site or if there's a tight deadline.
Be proactive about the situation, and there's no reason your UC needs to become an issue with your boss and co-workers.
"The absolute first thing you should do when you sense a flare coming is contact your gastroenterologist," says Thomas Cataldo, MD. He's a staff surgeon in colon and rectal surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
Ideally, you already have a close relationship with your doctor, and the two of you have discussed a plan to handle any flares. If so, put that plan into action to make your life, including your hours spent at work, easier.
If you don't have a gastroenterologist you work closely with, now is the time to start that relationship, Cataldo says.
"When a flare is beginning, take the time off to see a doctor, and get in to see your gastroenterologist as soon as possible for diagnostic tests that can tell you what's causing this particular flare," says Leyla J. Ghazi, MD. She's a gastroenterologist who specializes in inflammatory bowel disease at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Some flares can be set off by infection, while others are related to medicines. Others can be about stress. The treatment can be different for each.
While you and your doctor figure out the flare's cause, and shift your medicines to better control your symptoms, you might choose to not share the details with your employer, says Ghazi. It's reasonable to wait until you see how well the flare responds to your treatment.
Tell Your Supervisor
If, though, it takes a while to get control of the symptoms, and that starts to become obvious at work, you might want to take your supervisor and close co-workers aside one-on-one for a talk.
Tell them you've been having some chronic health issues, and you're working to get those resolved, Ghazi says. Explain that you may need to step out of meetings or off the floor or away from your desk, but that you will jump back in as soon as you can.
Also, let your supervisor know that getting your condition under control means you may need to spend some time visiting your doctor over the next few weeks or months.
If your employer isn't supportive, you may need to bring up the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Cataldo says.