How Do I Know if My Ulcerative Colitis Is Flaring?

Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022

Symptoms and signs of ulcerative colitis flares

Ulcerative colitis happens when irritation and open sores appear in the large intestine. You know ulcerative colitis is flaring if you experience bloody stools, nausea and vomiting, frequent bowel movements and other symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis signs and symptoms include bloody stools, nausea, vomiting, and frequent bowel movements.

Ulcerative colitis happens when irritation and open sores appear in the large intestine. It’s a kind of inflammatory bowel disease and can cause extremely uncomfortable ulcerative colitis flares.

An ulcerative colitis flare is when your disease symptoms reappear after a period of time without symptoms. Depending on where the inflammatory bowel disease is located in your gastrointestinal tract, you’ll have unique symptoms. Common symptoms and signs of ulcerative colitis flares include the following:

Some have reported the following secondary symptoms:

Causes of ulcerative colitis flares

Ulcerative colitis flares can be caused by a variety of things, including:

  • Skipping medications or not taking the correct dose. If you regularly take medicine for your ulcerative colitis, you need to be consistent even when your disease is in remission. If you don’t follow prescription instructions, flares can occur.
  • Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Common drugs like aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen can inflame the bowel and bring on serious symptoms. If you need mild pain relief or fever treatment, you should take acetaminophen.
  • Taking antibiotics. Although they’re useful when you have bacterial infections, they affect the bacteria that live in your intestine. These changes can result in diarrhea or the growth of too much of a certain bacteria that then causes inflammation. If you have a bacterial infection, make sure your healthcare provider knows you have ulcerative colitis.
  • Not managing stress. Physical and emotional stress can bring on flare-ups. Once you understand that stress causes such a reaction, you can find out what stress management strategies work to keep flare-ups at bay.
  • Eating and drinking triggering items. The foods and drinks that bring on symptoms vary by person. You’ll need to track your diet so you can pinpoint triggering items when you experience ulcerative colitis flares.

To avoid flare-ups, do your best to keep your systems in remission by following this advice. If this doesn’t work for you, get in touch with your healthcare provider to learn more about what you can do to avoid ulcerative colitis flares. They might be able to give you advice on diet restrictions, stress relief,  managing your emotions, and more.

How to manage ulcerative colitis flares

Although there isn’t a cure for ulcerative colitis, there are plenty of treatment options to reduce inflammation and help you return to your daily routine. Depending on the severity of your flare-up and your individual needs, your healthcare provider can recommend treatment to help you manage ulcerative colitis flares.

The end goal of treatments for ulcerative colitis flare-ups is to maintain remission. You might always have ulcerative colitis, but if you care for yourself you can avoid intense flare-ups. Your healthcare provider might recommend a medication to reduce swelling, heal tissue, relieve symptoms, reduce pain, and avoid diarrhea:

  • Aminosalicylates: For mild or moderate symptoms, your healthcare provider might prescribe these or a sulfa-free alternative if you’re allergic to sulfa. You can take it as a pill, or you can take it as an enema or suppository to directly reach the inflamed colon or rectum.
  • Corticosteroids: For severe symptoms, your healthcare might prescribe these medications for ulcerative colitis. These are a good short-term solution, but other medicines will be needed to guarantee remission in the long term. Using corticosteroids for a long period of time could result in serious side effects.
  • Immunomodulators: To calm the overactive immune system that sometimes comes along with ulcerative colitis, your healthcare provider might prescribe these medications.
  • Biologics: Similarly, these medications for ulcerative colitis focus on treating specific parts of the immune system. Biologics can treat moderate to severe symptoms.
  • Janus kinase inhibitors: Janus kinase inhibitors take another approach to treating ulcerative colitis. They keep your body’s enzymes from triggering inflammation.

You can't completely avoid flare-ups. If you eat well and take your medicine as prescribed, it’s likely that your disease will stay in remission. See your healthcare provider regularly to make sure that you’re always doing what’s best for your body, even when it’s been a while since you had a flare-up.

Ulcerative colitis flares can affect how you travel, your personal relationships, your professional life, and more. The most important thing you can do is to face your fears and worries instead of letting them control your life.

Take care of yourself

The longer you have ulcerative colitis, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself.  Seek support groups, expert advice, and further knowledge about your disease to keep from getting overwhelmed. 


Ulcerative colitis affects the colon. The colon is also referred to as the... See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 7/8/2022

Cleveland Clinic: "Ulcerative Colitis."

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation: "Managing Flares and IBD Symptoms."

National Health Service: "Ulcerative colitis."