Ulcerative Colitis (UC) Signs and Symptoms

The primary symptom of ulcerative colitis is progressive loosening of the stool (fecal matter). Loose stools often are accompanied by cramping, blood in the stool, and an urgent need to have a bowel movement. About 50 percent of people with colitis have mild symptoms, and symptoms tend to come and go.

Other symptoms include the following:

  • Anemia (low red blood cell count; causes by bleeding in the GI tract)
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Skin lesions
  • Weight loss

Children who have ulcerative colitis may experience stunted growth, as the disease interferes with the proper absorption of nutrients.

Complications of Ulcerative Colitis (UC)

Ulcerative colitis is associated with arthritis, eye inflammation, liver disease, and osteoporosis. The connection is not clear, but may be that increased inflammation in the colon causes an abnormal immune response in these other areas as well.

In rare cases, ulcerative colitis may lead to a condition called toxic megacolon. In this condition, the colon becomes paralyzed, and waste and gas build up in the organ. Symptoms include severe abdominal pain, swelling, fever, weakness, and disorientation. This condition, which may cause the colon to rupture, leading to peritonitis and death, requires immediate medical treatment.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 04 Mar 2008

Last Modified: 04 Sep 2015