Ulcerative colitis affects your colon, which is part of your digestive system. A lot of things can cause trouble in that general area, so how do you know what it feels like to have ulcerative colitis?
It depends on how severe it is, and on what part of your colon is affected.
Also, symptoms can come and go. You might not have any for weeks, months, or even years, and then they come back. Chances are about 50-50 that the effects will be mild.
Still, most people with the disease have a few common issues:
If your disease is severe, the urge to empty your colon can come on fast and furious. You might be able to predict when it will happen. You might have to go to the bathroom soon after you eat. Certain kinds of foods, like spicy dishes or food with lots of fiber, might make it worse.
But other times, the urge to go is unpredictable. It can even wake you up when you’re asleep.
It might be tough to hold diarrhea in and make it to the bathroom in time. Sometimes you may feel like you still have to go even though you just went, like you didn’t empty your colon.
Other parts of your body might hurt as well. Some people with the disease have sore joints. Others' eyes hurt when they look at bright lights.
- Nausea and loss of appetite keeps you from eating, which leaves your body low on fuel.
- Diarrhea and swelling in your colon make it hard for your body to absorb what it needs for energy.
- Bleeding in your colon leaves you with too few red blood cells, or anemia.
- You don't get enough sleep because you get up often at night to go to the bathroom.
- You're dehydrated because of diarrhea.
Diarrhea, loss of appetite, and not being able to absorb calories from your food can make you lose weight.
Symptoms Are Tricky
What you have might not be ulcerative colitis. Many conditions make you tired. Other gut problems can give you diarrhea and crampy belly pain, like:
- Crohn’s disease, which causes pain and swelling in other places in your gut, not just your colon
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- An infection
The only way to know why you have symptoms is to see your doctor and get tested. If you already know you have ulcerative colitis, call your doctor if your problems get worse or don’t go away, even if you’re already getting treatment.