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What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic and often debilitating inflammatory bowel disease1, that affects approximately one in every 420 people in the UK– that’s about 146,000 people2. This disease is characterised by the inflammation, irritation or swelling of the colon and rectum1.

Symptoms of UC can include chronic diarrhoea with blood and mucus, abdominal pain and cramping, and weight loss. UC can have a significant effect on work, family and social activities.3 UC affects men and women equally4 and usually occurs in young adults aged between 15 and 30 years old, with a second peak of onset occurring between 50 – 70 years old.1

No one knows exactly what causes UC, and it can affect every individual in a different way.5 UC is a chronic and ongoing condition, and while there is no cure for the disease, it can be managed.2

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What are the symptoms?

UC usually starts gradually. Symptoms tend to come and go over time and vary with the severity of the disease; mild, moderate, or severe.1

Most people go through periods of flares – the return of symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and urgent bowel movements – or remission, a time where the symptoms may disappear for a few weeks or even years.2

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Diarrhoea With inflammation of the colon, bloody diarrhoea is the most common symptom, especially during a flare.2

Abdominal discomfort The lining of the intestine becomes inflamed and ulcerated which can result in loose stool or diarrhoea, as well as abdominal cramps.5

Rectal Bleeding Ulceration of the lining of the colon can cause bleeding or mucus to form.6

Nausea3

Vomiting3

Weight Loss Nausea and vomiting are symptoms associated with UC, which may lead to weight loss.3

Fatigue Weight loss, along with sleep disturbance can lead to a feeling of low energy.3

Urgency Along with abdominal pain, most people with UC will experience an urgency to have a bowel movement.2

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The impact of UC on daily life7

Beyond the physical symptoms, UC can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life in several ways:

  • Patients can feel out of control, with 3 in 5 saying that UC controls their life rather than they control their disease.
  • Many people with UC must cope with bouts of tiredness which affect performance at work and negatively impact their confidence. For some patients, pain or the daily needs of the condition make focusing on work a struggle.
  • Social life is impacted, with nearly 2 in 3 patients report missing social events.
  • UC patients can face continued worries about sex and relationships – 21% have experienced an impact on their family, including avoiding/ending relationships.
  • There is also a reluctance among patients to discuss these issues with their doctor, meaning problems can persist creating more anxiety for patients.

About the Now UC Me campaign

‘Now UC Me’ is a campaign initiated and funded by Pfizer and designed to inspire people with UC to open up about the daily challenges with their doctor and take control of their lives.

Pfizer Limited have partnered with British Olympic swimmer and UC advocate Siobhan-Marie O’Connor to talk candidly about her experiences of living with UC and how she overcomes many of the challenges that come with the disease.

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Take a look at what Siobhan is saying:

About Siobhan-Marie O’Connor

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor first burst onto the international swimming scene back in 2011, after competing at the World Championships in Shanghai. She was the youngest GB swimming team member in the 2012 Olympics, and shortly after was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.

Despite her diagnosis, Siobhan has continued to excel in her swimming career. In the last Olympics in 2016, she won a silver medal in the 200m Individual Medley, and in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, she won three medals, including gold. Siobhan continues to storm to victory, having recently qualified for her 5th World Championship Team.

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What is the UC Narrative?7

Pfizer created the UC Narrative, a global initiative to engage the UC community and help understand the impact of living with UC and how people living with UC are affected by the disease.

In the UK, 250 adults with moderate to severe UC were surveyed to investigate the daily challenges they face. The insights will be used to develop new resources to help enhance the way patients and physicians understand and communicate their concerns about living with UC.

The UK findings were part of a global survey developed by the Global UC Narrative Advisory Panel, comprised of people living with UC, as well as leading gastroenterologists, inflammatory bowel disease nurses, a psychologist and patient advocacy organisations, from 10 countries.