The main goals of an ulcerative colitis (UC) disease management plan are to be symptom-free, to stay in remission long term, and to experience improved quality of life. Unfortunately, when dealing with a chronic disease like UC, symptoms can and often do come back in the form of flare-ups.
The intensity of flare-ups can vary, but it’s important to remember that experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort doesn’t necessarily mean you’re having a flare. Symptoms, such as a change in your bowel habits or sudden pain or bloating, could actually be related to something other than your UC.
Flare-ups often involve all of the common UC symptoms, like diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal bleeding, fatigue, and urgent bowel movements. But as unpleasant as they are, it’s often the unpredictable nature of flares that can make them so frustrating for patients. If you have UC, not knowing when the next flare will strike may make you feel helpless. But you’re not.
Establish a comprehensive approach. Consider talking to a registered dietitian, especially if you are losing a lot of weight or your diet has become very limited. They may recommend you take supplements for extra vitamins and minerals you may need to avoid malnourishment.
Avoid problem foods and stay hydrated. Although there is no firm evidence that foods can cause UC, certain foods and beverages can aggravate symptoms. It’s also important to keep yourself hydrated, especially during a flare.
Get moving. Exercising, even a little, can reduce tension. Even mild exercise can make a difference. Consider biking, walking, yoga, or swimming.
Handle stress. Although stress, either positive or negative, doesn’t cause UC, it could make your symptoms worse and may trigger flare-ups. To help relieve stress, try meditation, exercise, or, if you feel like you need to, you can always join a support group or seek a healthcare provider.
Remember, to help control your UC symptoms and reduce the risk of flare-ups, it is important to take your medications as your doctor prescribes. Keep in mind that flares may also indicate it’s time to change the dose, frequency, or type of medication you are taking. That’s why it’s important to track how you’re feeling and work closely with your doctor to find the treatment that is right for you.
With the right treatment, people with UC should strive to achieve a life without symptoms or flare-ups. So make sure you’re having an open and honest dialogue with your doctor and letting them know if you are still having symptoms while on treatment.
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The UC Narrative patient survey was conducted online and via telephonei by Harris Poll on behalf of Pfizer between August 23, 2017, and February 9, 2018, among 2,100 adults ages 18+ residing in Australia (215), Canada (215), Finland (105), France (169), Germany (210), Italy (210), Japan (210), Spain (214), the United Kingdom (251), and the United States (301) who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC), have had an endoscopic procedure to confirm their diagnosis, have not had a colectomy, have been to a gastroenterologist or internist’s officeii in the past 12 months, have ever taken a prescription medication for their UC (excluding those who have only ever taken 5-ASAs), and provided informed consent to complete the research. Raw data were not weighted at the individual country level, and are therefore only representative of the individuals who completed the survey.
The primary goal of the survey was to characterize the experiences of UC patients who are believed to be living with moderate to severe disease or those who may be living with poorly controlled disease. The choice to focus on these patient types was based on the assumption that these groups (versus those with milder disease) were more likely in need of support and resources, which the survey could help better identify.
To achieve the goal of focusing on those with moderate to severe disease, self-reported medication history was used as a proxy for disease severity. Patients with “moderate to severe” disease were defined as those who have ever taken a biologic or immunosuppressant for their UC, or have taken steroids for four or more of the past 12 months. Patients with a “milder” form of the disease were defined as those who have never taken a biologic or immunosuppressant, and those who have taken steroids for three or fewer months of the past 12 months. The research excluded patients who have never taken a prescription medication for their UC or have only ever taken a 5-ASA to control their UC. More than 80 percent of total completes were from patients whose disease was classified as “moderate to severe,” using this definition, with “milder” patients capped at no more than 20 percent of total survey completes. Results from the UC Narrative patient sample survey may not reflect the experiences of the broader UC population.
The UC Narrative physician survey was conducted online and via telephonei by Harris Poll on behalf of Pfizer between August 23 and February 9, 2018, among 1,254 adults ages 18+ residing in Australia (90), Canada (80), Finland (17), France (154), Germany (152), Italy (157), Japan (151), Spain (151), the United Kingdom (153), and the United States (149)iii who practice as a gastroenterologist, internist with a gastroenterology focus, gastroenterology internist, or gastroenterology surgeon,iv do not primarily practice in a long-term care facility or hospice setting, see at least 10 patients with UC each month (or a minimum of five patients with UC per month in Japan), with at least 10 percent of these patients currently taking a biologic medicine for their UC (physicians were asked to think about their experiences treating patients in their practice whose UC is moderate to severe throughout the survey), and provided informed consent to complete the research. Physician results in the United States were weighted by region, years in practice, and physician gender. In all other countries, physician results were weighted by age and gender to ensure alignment with the actual proportions in the population of gastroenterologists in each country.v UC Narrative physician sample survey may not necessarily reflect the experiences of all gastroenterologists.
For both patient and physician data, for the global, 10-country total, a post-weight was applied to adjust for the relative size of each country’s adult population within the total adult population across all countries surveyed. The unweighted sample sizes reflect the total number of patients and physicians who completed the survey in each country, while all reported percentages are calculated based on the weighted global total described here. Proportionate weighting for combining multicountry data into a single total is a common practice because it relies on externally recognized population data to achieve a global total that more accurately represents the real-world relative to the adult populations surveyed. There are limitations to this approach; when countries surveyed have widely varying population totals, the data from smaller countries may get weighted down within the total, thus reducing their share of voice when grouped together with the larger countries.
In the United States, the research method and survey questionnaires were reviewed and received institutional review board (IRB) approval from WIRB-Copernicus Group.
Language referencing data of those who agree with the statement, includes those who indicated both "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" within the survey.