How Long Does an Ulcerative Colitis Flare-Up Last?

Reviewed on 5/17/2021
ulcerative colitis
An ulcerative colitis flare-up can last a few days or a few weeks

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. If you have UC, you may experience repeated cycles of flare-ups (symptomatic periods) and remissions (asymptomatic periods). 

A flare-up can last a few days or a few weeks and then be followed by a remission that lasts for months or even years. How long a flare-up lasts depends on factors such as:

  • Severity of the disease (mild, moderate or severe)
  • Triggers such as stress, infection, diet changes etc.
  • Medication compliance (whether you’re taking your medications as prescribed)

While there is no cure for UC, several treatment options and lifestyle modifications can help reduce symptoms or prevent flare-ups.

What causes ulcerative colitis?

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Factors that can contribute to the disease include:

What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

UC can cause the following symptoms:

UC is also linked to other symptoms like inflammation of the eyes, joints, skin and lungs.

How is ulcerative colitis classified?

UC is classified as mild, moderate or severe:

  • Mild: Rectal bleeding and fewer than 4 bowel movements per day
  • Moderate: Rectal bleeding with more than 4 bowel movements per day
  • Severe: Rectal bleeding with more than 4 bowel movements per day and systemic illness with protein loss


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How is ulcerative colitis treated?

Treatment for UC depends on the severity of the disease and often involves both medications and lifestyle modifications.


Most people require a combination of medications to suppress and/or modulate the immune system:


If you have stopped responding to medications or they’re just not effective anymore, surgery is an option. You can undergo a proctocolectomy, which removes the colon and rectum, followed by reconstructive surgery.

Lifestyle and dietary modifications

Managing stress and emotions is crucial to preventing and decreasing flare-ups. Regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are important as well. Your doctor may encourage you to follow a diet that is low in fat and has moderate amounts of soluble fiber and vitamins.

What foods are safe for people with ulcerative colitis?

Foods that are usually tolerated well by people with UC include:

  • Breads, noodles and pastas made from refined white flour
  • Boiled white rice
  • Crackers and cereals made from white flour
  • Cooked fruits
  • Fruits without peels and seeds
  • Cooked vegetables without skins and seeds
  • Pureed vegetables and vegetable soups
  • Soft, tender meats without skin
  • Fish
  • Nut butters 
  • Oils like coconut oil or olive oil

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