Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

By Dr. Brian Bressler

The symptoms of ulcerative colitis can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of inflammation and specifically where the inflammation occurs in the colon. There are five types of the disease and each represents a different portion of the colon where inflammation occurs. Symptoms vary by the location that is inflamed.

Here are the five forms of ulcerative colitis and the symptoms that accompany each.

Ulcerative proctitis.

In this type of the disease, which tends to be the mildest form, the inflammation is restricted to the area closest to the anus, near the end of the colon. In this form of the disease, the primary symptom is rectal bleeding. Some people may also have rectal pain and an accompanying feeling of urgency to have a bowel movement. These may be the first and only symptoms with this type of ulcerative colitis.

Proctosigmoiditis.

In this form of the disease, the rectum and lower end of the colon, identified as the sigmoid colon, are affected. Typical symptoms from this type of inflammation include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and difficulty having a bowel movement, despite the urge to do so.

Left-sided colitis.

In this type of the disease the inflammation extends from the rectum up through the sigmoid colon and the descending colon. As the name suggests, this area is located in the upper left portion of the colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain on the left side of the abdomen and weight loss due to fluid loss and poor absorption of nutrients.

Pancolitis.

This type of ulcerative colitis is more severe and inflammation can often be found in the entire length of the colon. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea that may be severe, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue (from blood loss, which leads to anemia) and significant weight loss from fluid loss and poor nutrient absorption. Those with pancolitis are at greater risk of developing colon cancer.

How Ulcerative Colitis Differs From Person to Person

Fulminant colitis.

This type of the disease is rare but severe enough to be life-threatening. It affects the entire length of the colon. Symptoms include severe pain, profuse bloody diarrhea, rapid weight loss and possible dehydration and shock. Those with this form of ulcerative colitis are at risk of serious complications that could include rupture of the colon.

Join our e-newsletter to keep updated with the Crohn's and colitis news and knowledge.