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If you’re one of the almost 1 million people in the US living with ulcerative colitis, you’re probably well aware of the challenges of this debilitating and often unpredictable disease. Symptoms can be mild to severe and can get worse over time. Sometimes the disease may be active and symptoms are present. At other times, few or no symptoms are present (called remission). This can make it even more difficult for you to live your life. Read on to learn about ulcerative colitis and ways to manage it in 6 common situations.

About ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that causes irritation and sores (ulcers) on the inner lining of the large intestine. It is one of a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease is another form of IBD.

Living With Ulcerative Colitis

Common signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

6 important things to keep in mind if you have ulcerative colitis


1. Working with your healthcare provider
Managing ulcerative colitis means teaming up with your healthcare provider and working together on a regular basis. Currently there is no cure for ulcerative colitis. The goal of treatment is to stay in remission for as long as possible. And treatment must be tailored to each patient.

It’s important that you keep all of your scheduled office visits when you are having flares and when you are in remission. If you have any questions or concerns between your appointments, call your healthcare provider. He or she will work with you to:

2. Traveling
Like many people, travel may be a part of your life—whether for business or pleasure. While having ulcerative colitis can sometimes complicate your trips, planning ahead can help take some of the worry out of traveling. Try to:

3. Dining out
You may be concerned about restaurant food choices and how they may affect you. While foods affect people with ulcerative colitis differently, there are things you can do to have an enjoyable dining experience. For example:

4. Dealing with stress
Living with ulcerative colitis can be stressful, which can make your symptoms worse. That’s why managing stress is an important part of managing the condition. To get started, you can:

5. Dating and intimacy
Living with ulcerative colitis can have a negative impact on dating and intimacy. For example, the fear of incontinence, having stomach pain or a fever, or feeling tired can ruin a romantic evening. In addition, body image can be affected by symptoms, making people feel less interested in sex. Consider:

6. Talking with others about ulcerative colitis
While it may be difficult or embarrassing to talk with people you are close with about your ulcerative colitis and how it impacts your life, it can also be one of the best ways to help you manage it. While the amount of information that you are comfortable sharing is very personal, most people find it helpful to have support from others. For example, consider letting people know in advance about your condition. This may make your life easier and help others understand why you might need to cancel future plans at the last minute or if you need to use the bathroom unexpectedly.

Daniel M. Quirk MD, MPH, MBA, is a Senior Medical Director on the US Medical Affairs team supporting Inflammation and Immunology at Pfizer Inc.

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References

  • 1. National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ulcerative Colitis. Accessed November 7, 2017.
  • 2. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. The Facts About Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. Accessed November 22, 2017.
  • 3. Medline Plus Medical Dictionary. Chronic. Accessed November 27, 2017.
  • 4. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Living With Ulcerative Colitis. Accessed November 27, 2017.
  • 5. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Traveling With IBD. Accessed November 27, 2017.
  • 6. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. No Reservations: How to Take the Worry Out of Eating Out. Accessed November 27, 2017.
  • 7. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Stress and Anxiety. Accessed November 30, 2017.
  • 8. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Fact Sheet: Sex Intimacy and IBD. Accessed November 30, 2017.
  • 9. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Managing Flares and Other IBD Symptoms. Accessed December 1, 2017.
  • 10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Accessed January 31, 2018.
  • 11. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. Types of Medications for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Accessed January 31, 2018.