What is happening when you have an ulcerative colitis flare-up?
Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel condition. Someone with the condition will always have it but won’t always have symptoms. A flare-up occurs when symptoms essentially reappear after a period of well being.
What triggers a flare-up?
Sadly, we are not at a stage in research where the exact reason for a flare-up can be identified. But flare-ups may occur during times of stress, after certain drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, or be triggered by a gut-infection, to name a few
What are the symptoms of a flare-up?
When you start to have a flare-up, you may experience a variety of symptoms. These can include:
- Stomach pain
- Frequent diarrhoea, including at night.
- Tiredness for no evident reason
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
- Weight loss.
- Mouth ulcers
- Pain in the joints
- Redness on the skin and some swelling
- Eye irritation
Are these symptoms a definite sign someone has a flare of ulcerative colitis?
No. These symptoms overlap with other gastrointestinal conditions such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. You can read more on the difference between ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease on our Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) page.
Can a flare-up be serious?
The vast majority of flare ups can be managed at home with medication meaning it is rare to need hospital admission. However, if someone gets a fever or severe abdominal pain, or excessive bleeding then they should attend either their Dr surgery or see their specialist.
What are some practical steps to take when a flare-up occurs?
The first thing to do if a flare up occurs is to make sure you are eating a healthy diet which is low in fibre and contains plenty of water. Avoiding dairy products and cutting down carbohydrates may also help. The vast majority of people will requite adjustments to their medication, so you should seek medical advice from your GP or specialist.
How can you get tested for ulcerative colitis?
Someone can visit a clinic like the new Digestive Health Centre at OneWelbeck in London, meet with a specialist, and have tests carried out to provide a clear diagnosis.
For patients who already know that they have ulcerative colitis, it is possible to have your history reviewed and some diagnostic procedures carried out to see if any treatment options may be of benefit.