Thumbnail image of: Digestive System: Illustration

Ulcerative Colitis Discharge Information

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation in the lining of the large intestine (colon) and the rectum. It may be caused by a problem with the immune system. The immune system is the body’s way of fighting infection. Emotional distress or sensitivity to certain foods may trigger symptoms in some people who have colitis. The symptoms include belly pain and diarrhea, often bloody, that usually comes and goes.

How can I take care of myself when I go home?

How long it takes to get better depends on your treatment, how well you recover, your overall health, and any complications you may have. Some people have sudden or severe symptoms of ulcerative colitis and then may not have any symptoms for months or even years. However, in most cases the symptoms eventually return. Ulcerative colitis can often be controlled with medicines and diet.


  • Your provider will give you a list of your medicines when you leave the hospital.
    • Know your medicines. Know what they look like, how much you should take each time, how often you should take them, and why you take each one.
    • Take your medicines exactly as your provider tells you to.
    • Carry a list of your medicines in your wallet or purse. Include any nonprescription medicines and supplements on the list.
    • Talk to your provider before you use any other medicines, including nonprescription medicines.
  • Your provider may prescribe medicines or other therapy to:
    • Treat or prevent infection
    • Reduce inflammation in the colon
    • Prevent your immune system from attacking healthy cells
    • Treat pain
    • Treat or prevent diarrhea
    • Treat anemia from blood loss
  • If you have had surgery, to care for your ostomy or surgical wound:
    • Keep your ostomy or surgical wound clean and dry.
    • If you are told to change your dressing on your ostomy or surgical wound, wash your hands before changing the appliance dressing and after emptying the appliance or disposing of the dressing.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there are any foods or medicines you should avoid.
  • Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow in color, unless you are told to limit fluids.
  • When you have diarrhea, rest your bowel by drinking only clear liquids such as water, juice, tea, and bouillon for a few hours. It is important to drink small amounts often so you don’t get dehydrated. Suck on ice chips if you feel too nauseated to drink anything. Do not eat solid foods if they cause cramps.
  • Follow activity restrictions, such as not driving or operating machinery, as recommended by your healthcare provider or pharmacist, especially if you are taking pain medicines.
  • Take care of your health. Try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Eat a healthy diet and try to keep a healthy weight. If you smoke, try to quit. If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. Learn ways to manage stress. Exercise according to your healthcare provider’s instructions.


  • Follow your provider’s instructions for follow-up appointments.
  • Keep appointments for any routine testing you may need.
  • Talk with your provider about any questions or concerns you have.
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for colon cancer screening exams.

Call emergency medical services or 911 if you have new or worsening:

  • Bright red blood in your bowel movement with diarrhea
  • Severe bleeding from your ileostomy site

If you have these symptoms, do not drive yourself.

Call your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening:

  • Bloating or belly pain
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal problems
  • Dehydration, which means losing too much fluid from your body. This can often happen if you have frequent vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Weight loss more than your healthcare provider recommends in any month
  • Signs of infection around your surgical wound if you had surgery. These include:
    • Redness, swelling, or leaking around your ileostomy site
    • The wound area is very warm to touch or painful
    • You have blood, pus, or other fluid coming from your wound area
    • You have a fever higher than 101.5° F (38.6° C)
    • You have chills or muscle aches
Developed by RelayHealth.
Acute Care Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-12
Last reviewed: 2015-01-07
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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