How Long Do Ulcerative Colitis Flares Last?

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) flare-ups can last for days or weeks. Symptoms of a flare may include urgent or frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, blood in stools, and abdominal pain or cramping. Because these symptoms can also be caused by something other than UC, it can sometimes be difficult to tell whether you're experiencing a flare-up. 

What can help a UC flare?

Taking your medication regularly is one of the best ways to prevent a UC flare. If you're still experiencing symptoms even while taking medication, talk to your doctor. A clinical trial looking for volunteers with UC may also be an option. 

The below suggestions can also help ease symptoms, or help keep your body healthy during a flare.

Drink water. In UC, the large intestine can have a hard time absorbing water and salt, which can contribute to diarrhea and dehydration. Drinking plenty of water or an electrolyte replacement drink can help avoid dehydration if you're experiencing a flare.

Eat plain, easy-to-digest foods. During a UC flare, it's common to lose your appetite. To keep your energy levels up and avoid malnutrition and weight loss, it's important to continue to fuel your body with food. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables, particularly when raw, are bothersome for many people with UC. Avoid fatty and greasy foods as well. Your doctor may also suggest meal replacement drinks if you're losing weight from UC flares.

Get some exercise. If you're experiencing symptoms like stomach pain and diarrhea, exercise may sound like the last thing you want to do. But in addition to the well-known mood and health-boosting benefits of exercise, a workout can also have specific benefits for UC symptoms. Uncontrolled inflammation in the intestinal tract leads to UC symptoms. Exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help these symptoms. 

How do I know if my UC has gone into remission? 

Ulcerative Colitis doesn't have a cure. Instead, the goal of any treatment plan is to send the disease into remission. 

When UC is in remission, you don't experience as many symptoms and start to feel better. If your UC medications and lifestyle changes work well for you, remission may last for months or even years. There are several different kinds of remission:

  • Clinical remission: When a patient isn't experiencing symptoms and may feel better. 
  • Endoscopic remission: Testing of the intestinal lining shows no inflammation 
  • Biochemical remission: Blood and stool tests show no sign of inflammation 
  • Surgical remission: When UC goes into remission after surgery to treat it
  • Histologic remission: When both clinical and endoscopic tests didn't show signs of UC

If Ulcerative Colitis symptoms keep coming back, it can be a sign that medications aren't working. A new clinical trial is researching an investigational treatment that takes a different approach – and volunteers are needed. Learn more.