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    What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

    Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease that affects your large intestine, or colon. It causes irritation and swelling called inflammation. Eventually that leads to sores called ulcers in the lining there.

    UC is a type of inflammatory bowel disease, but it’s different from other diseases with similar symptoms, like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome. There’s no cure yet, and people usually have symptom flare-ups off and on for life. The right treatments can help you keep a handle on the disease, though.

    Recommended Related to Ulcerative Colitis

    5 Tips to Control Your Ulcerative Colitis Flares

    You want to calm the flares that strike when you have ulcerative colitis (UC). But if you keep your disease in check, you may also have fewer symptoms over time. Your flares might be different from someone else with UC. They can range from mild to severe and are often unpredictable. You might get diarrhea and feel an urgent need to go to the bathroom. You could have blood in your stool and be tired a lot. Use these five tips to keep your flares in check.

    Read the 5 Tips to Control Your Ulcerative Colitis Flares article > >

    Causes

    Ulcerative colitis happens when your immune system makes a mistake. Normally it attacks invaders in your body, like the common cold. But when you have UC, your immune system thinks food, good gut bacteria, and the cells that line your colon are the intruders. White blood cells that usually protect you work against the lining of your colon instead. They cause the inflammation and ulcers.

    Doctors aren’t sure why people get the condition. Your genes may play a role -- the disease sometimes runs in families. Other things in your environment may make a difference, too. So far, research hasn’t discovered one clear cause for UC.

    Other things, like food and stress, don’t cause it, but they can trigger a flare of symptoms.

    Symptoms

    The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is bloody diarrhea. There might be some pus in your stools, too.

    Other problems include:

    • Crampy belly pain
    • Sudden urges to empty your colon right away
    • Not feeling hungry
    • Weight loss
    • Feeling tired
    • Fever
    • Dehydration
    • Joint pain or soreness
    • Canker sores
    • Eye pain when you look at a bright light
    • Too few red blood cells, called anemia
    • Skin sores
    • Feeling like you haven’t completely emptied your colon after you use the bathroom
    • Waking up at night to go
    • Not being able to hold your stools in

    Your symptoms can flare up, go away, and then come back again. Sometimes they might not bother you for weeks or years at a time.

    Other gut diseases can have some of the same symptoms. Crohn’s disease causes inflammation, too, but it happens in other places in your digestive tract. Ulcerative colitis affects only your large intestine and only the inside lining. Irritable bowel syndrome has some of the same symptoms as UC, but it doesn’t cause inflammation or ulcers. Instead, it’s a problem with the muscle in your intestines.

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