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Ulcerative Colitis - What Happens

Ulcerative colitis may be mild, moderate, or severe.

Most people have periods of remission (when the condition is not active) that may last up to several years. These periods are interrupted by occasional flare-ups of moderate symptoms. About 5 to 10 out of 100 people who have ulcerative colitis have symptoms all the time.1

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Children may have the same symptoms that adults have. Also, children with the disease may grow more slowly than normal and go through puberty later than expected.

Complications and long-term effects

Problems from ulcerative colitis can include:

  • Narrowed areas of the intestine (strictures). They can make it hard to pass stools.
  • Increased risk of cancer of the colon and rectum. This risk is higher than average if you have had ulcerative colitis for 8 years or longer.
  • Complications outside the digestive tract. These include joint pain, skin problems, and eye problems.
  • The colon swelling to many times its normal size. This is called toxic megacolon. It's rare, but it needs treatment right away.
  • Other rare complications, such as scarring of the bile ducts and the pancreas.

Irritable bowel syndrome

Some people who have ulcerative colitis also have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It isn't as serious as ulcerative colitis. IBS causes belly pain along with diarrhea or constipation.

Pregnancy and ulcerative colitis

Most women with ulcerative colitis can have a normal pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. Symptoms may be worse during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Some medicines to treat the disease can be used during pregnancy.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 08, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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