Ulcerative Colitis in the Military

I’m a newly diagnosed UC’er in the military beginning a medical board (military maybe kicking me out). Possible Crohn’s?

My Story:

(I just have to get this all out)

So I began having issues about 18 months ago, and never really paid much attention to it. I had PT in the early mornings and began having a lot of movements interrupting me as I was running on the track. Really tough running in formations by the way!
So I deployed to the Middle East unaware of what was going on and began having slimy bowel movements about 5+ times a day and still never really thought much of it. I had talked w/ some friends and figured I was just lactose intolerant. I couldn’t ever really get rid of the symptoms. It was tough over there having to walk so long to a bathroom. At work at times having to walk a mile and at night having to get dressed and wake up to a mile away to the head. So it never seemed to go away for the 6 months that I was in the desert.
I never saw a Dr. until I was back in the states for about 4 months. It took me about 4 Dr. visits for them to take me seriously. (Did a stool sample and sent me along) I started getting up to 10x a day w/ abdominal pain. They finally referred me to a GI who performed a colonoscopy and confirmed UC. My wife had been doing research throughout my absence and thought it was Crohn’s.
I had to go to the ER a couple of times so far w/ severe pains and constipation. I’ve gotten prednisone those times and it seemed to work.
Now I recently had another scope, he decided to explore my stomach and small intestine this time. After the procedure he told me he found “lots more” and said to see him again in 3 months What does this mean? That’s such b.s!
Now I’ve been having pain in my left side of the abdomen for a while but have been feeling it in the lower right as well. I’m a little confused right now. So this means Crohn’s, right? But I’ve still got bloody stool, so that should be ulcerative colitis
So they also decided to initiate a medical evaluation board on me as well. So I’ve got the doctors deciding my fate and my future. I may be out of a job in 3-4 months :(
I recently just had the med staff at the base hospital refer me to another GI. I’ll be getting a second opinion and another doctor. I’ve had so many problems w/ my current dr.

sumitted by “Lab Rat”

My Medications:

1123mg Apriso (mesalamine)
40mg Prednisone (temporarily)

48 thoughts on “Ulcerative Colitis in the Military”

  1. Ok first off I’m so sorry you’re going through a lot. I understand, and being in the military deployed is another horrible thing with UC. I have a very mild case (which seems like a nightmare) of UC. I’m on Lialda which really does work 100%. I was diagnoised November 20,2009. My lower left tummy is always usually bloated or in pain with cramps. My right side never hurts me or bothers me. I have urges but usually with constipation (yet lialda is making me go). Blood is very little compared to before lialda. And yes that slimy mucus stuff is still going on. I can’t sleep at night when I flare due to false alarms. I personally think you have UC. not too sure what the doctor said about found more. I would ask indepth about that one. Diet is a major issue. Once you figure out what flares you abd what aids you, this helps. Try and look into the scd diet. It’s helped for me but I had to get offs it bc of weight lose (I’m a tiny girl already and more weight lose isn’t good). Hood luck and if you need support. We are all here for you!

  2. Keep trying to find a Doctor that is familiar with the treatment of crohns or uc. I was told that the treatment is almost the same. Talk to your dr. about remicade treatment that was a miracle drug for me.I was first dx. with crohns and later found out it was uc. I had one flare 8 years ago with an abcess in my colon. I have been in remission every since only taking asacol now but my GI dr. told me I would have another flare it maybe 10 years from now but it would happen again. Keep trying to find a Doctor that will help you.

  3. What state are you in? You have GOT to stand up for yourself with this. I had to throw absolute fits several times to get doctors to listen to me. I’m hoping if you read this and write back that you’ll say you’re in NC or close to it. If so, I’ve got a FABULOUS doctor for you. If not, I’m going to my doctor on Tuesday. I can ask him for names of those he trusts in other states.

  4. I’m in Texas. Yeah, I’ve had so many issues w/ my current GI. It was a nightmare, some comically funny stuff.
    I’ve got a new Dr in another town now. I did some research online and he looks great!

  5. Do not let them grind you down! A lot of the issue with having UC/CROHN’S is the psychological battle firstly to come to terms with all the med staff you’ll meet and all the jargon and meds etc, the next and more imnportant part of it is the YOU have to come to a recognition that life is not going to be as it was, but will be different. Since my diagnosis with UC i have changed my outlook in life [nothing is going to stress me out as it used to anymore, my diet is good etc]. I have also been lucky to have has apositive response to the meds and havent had a flare up since diagnosis, but this will change but Im ready for it.

    Ciaran [Ireland]

  6. Lab Rat –

    Sorry you are having a rough time. IMO most military docs suck. Give you motrin and move you along. I was at the base ER 3x before they figured out I had pnumonia. See a gastro doc, explain all your symptoms. I ended up the in the ER in September and was in the hospital for 5 days with my UC being diagnosed.

    It took me being on Lialda (4 pills a day) and 40 mg of presnidone along with a liquid diet for a week for the bleeding to stop. I was on presnidone for 3 months, weened off of it now for about 6 weeks and my symptoms are getting worse again. I’m still on the lialda, trying Align (OTC probiotic) for a couple of weeks and if that doesn’t help I’m going on Entocort.

    Hope you are doing better by now!

  7. Lab Rat,

    Hope this makes its way to you. I am currently experiencing the exact same thing. Was misdiagnosed initially at FT Polk with ameobic dysentary (I’m sure I spelled that wrong) and it wasn’t until I got to Hawaii and started going to Tripler which has a G/I department that I was correctly diagnosed with UC. I took Command of a Company just before deployment and was told during SRP that I was non-deployable. Due to the upcoming deployment and everything I received an ARCENT waiver and deployed with the UC and was fairly stable throughout. When I came back my DR had retired and got a new DR. He is initiating the MED Board and so now I am having to deal with that. It has all just started so I can’t really tell you much about whats going on with that as its pretty new but I feel your pain on it. I have no clue whats going to happen either. I have read the regulation and I know what I have been told so far. Based on the date of your posting you may or may not already know these things but, normally once the MED Board has been initiated you will get 1 year for the Dr to work on it. By regulation if the UC is well controlled on medication a MED Board does not need to be initiated. Prednisone is a medication that will make you non deployable (hence why I needed the waiver) so getting off the Prednisone is the first key, however the prednisone will help control the inflamation. Mine has not subsided from the prednisone and we have moved to the next step 200 mg Imuran and then this week I will be starting IV infusions of Remicaid. With the Remicaid I will not be able to deploy however there is the possibility that after a year of the remicaid then can take me off that and just maintain with the Asacol (mesalamime) and I will remain in a deployable status. Understand its not over with you just have to make sure you find the right G/I and know that you have to have some time for the medications to work, UC doesn’t just magically go away immediately and if they try and seperate you immediately make sure you push this point because if they can get the UC under control to a maintenance status you can remain in the service. Lastly if you do go to the MED Board and they decide to sperate you, a few things. One if you have over 7 years of service you will be medically retired and receive all your retirement benefits as long as the condition started while you were in the service. If you do not have more than 7 years of service if you are deemed over 30% disabled you will be medically retired. I have been told that UC “can” get you 100% but you will always have to fight for this one. Talk to the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) make sure you push for as much disability as possible and make sure you say this condition started while you were in the service. Hope this helps.

    1. I was just put on Prednisone today and have SRP in two weeks and deploy to Afghanistan in six weeks, can you tell me about the ARCENT waiver? Thanks

    2. Matthew,

      I just saw your post from 2011 and hope you get this… Can you please let me know how your case turned out? I’m asking because my son was just diagnosed with UC and is in the same boat you were in. His doc just put him on humira (self-injected) and in a non-deployable status. The hope is the UC will go into remission and/or he can go off the shots. He’s been in about 3 years and is an Ordnance officer at Ft. Stewart, GA. Was just promoted to 1st Lt and has wanted a military career all his life. Any additional info you can share about your case would be greatly appreciated.

      Thank you for you service.



    1. I’m fighting with the VA now for a rating decision on UC… I’ve been out since 1999, where I was given a med board and told i was unfit for duty… Congratulations on receiving your benefits!!!

  8. Matthew:
    So I’ve only been in 6 years but the med board told me full retirement, but i’m not sure what this means. I’ve got appts today to discuss the situation, and go over all the benefits received. I’ll post ater on today.

    1. I got a med. Discharge in 2008, I was in 7 yrs. Deployed to Iraq and have been denied compensation. How did you get 90%

    2. Hello Lab Rat,

      My brother was diagnosed with UC after he came back from Iraq, and has had issues since his arrival. He had to fight and is still fighting to stay in, since his medical condition has gotten worse. He received steroids to control and some other medication, which of course didn’t work for him, and he ended up having surgery to remove the colon and the large intestine. Hope you do get the best treatment and best wishes to u. I am wondering though if there are any other soldiers out there who developed U C upon returning from Iraq? U C Is not in our family history and it is baffeling because now he is dealing with other issues which the doctors are saying are complications from UC. Frustrated

      1. Yeah I am in the same boat. No history of UC in my family and I was diagnosed almost immediatley upon returning from Afghanistan. I also did no exhibit any symptoms until a month after returning. I did smoke alot over there and quit cold turkey when I returned…. i heard their may be a connection. I also consumed a lot of Afghan food so who knows what triggers this. I am in the National Guard so its a little easier for me to keep it under wraps. Anyways maybe these “environmental factors” are a contributor….

  9. Lab Rat,

    Just came across your story. I’m also military and worried about a med board. Glad you got retirement. VA rated 90%. What did the PEB rate you as?

  10. Lab Rat please help me! I want to be in the military so bad. I plan to attend either Annapolis or West Point. However, as you can guess, I’m on this website because I have UC. It’s not very serious, at least anymore. Is there any way I can get into the military with this since it’s not bad anymore. Please, I need your help!

  11. That’s a tough one bro, I’ll be in for 7 years here soon. I was diagnosed two years ago, it’s been hard enough just trying to stay in during a drawdown I can only imagine for a guy just coming in. Dude remember the us military is ALWAYS either desperately looking for people or in a hurry to get rid of them, and right now the cards are stacked against you. All you can do is ask a recruiter

  12. Hey, I’v had UC for about 9 years now and I’m looking to join the military however I was rejected admission due to my UC.
    What I don’t understand is, how does my UC effect the military?
    I mean I understand that if we (Australia) are in a wartime situation where I needed to be posted overseas there might be limited access to bathrooms. But having lived in the bush my entire life, i don’t find it a diffcult choice to dig a small hole, go, and cover it up, in fact i would have rather dug a hole to go in than walk a mile to the nearest toilet.
    If it was a situation where I had to pick-up a weapon and fight, I would ask, find me someone who isn’t shitting themselves already.
    As for control, over the 9 years I’v worked out ways to prolong the need to go to the bathroom and know that in stressful situations (adrenaline rushes or total concentration on an objective) + these techniques, I can go 12-14 hours without having to use the toilet (Its… eventful though when i eventually do).
    The severity of my condition would probably be considered mild – intermediate, having going about 9 times a day and frequent blood paired with explosive diahhoria.
    Anyway, if anyone knows exactly why UC would have an effect on my service to the military it would be greatly appreciated.

  13. I was diagnosed with mild left-sided colitis on Parris Island in early ’08 before I could complete bootcamp… 5 years later, I am suffering from severe Pancolitis (the whole intestine). I wanted terribly to become a Marine and it was ripped away from me by the terrible disease. I would still love to serve, but with the severity of my disease, that wont be happening.

  14. How did this turn out? I have pancolitis and have been on cimzia(400 mg/month) and nexiun and tramadol for pain(100 mg every 4 hourss prn). I would love to join have always wanted to be in thd nave but I’ve been looking into army and air force as wekk ajd it makes me angry so any answers about joiningn

  15. Ana, you wont be able to join at all. Our disease is on the list of health problems that aren’t allowed and would get you med-boarded before you know it. Also, having your intestine removed or havign a colostomy bag also disqualifies you.

  16. My son was just diagnosed two weeks ago with UC, in his last week of Navy boot camp. He’s been in the hospital ever since. He’s doing somewhat better, but still has a lot of problems. The docs are going to push for a medical discharge. I guess that’s okay because I would rather he was close-by in the event of a serious flare-up. The Navy won’t keep him because if he were at sea and had a flare-up, they wouldn’t be able to get him to help in time. Even the big carriers (according to the docs) aren’t equipped to handle a UC situation. I was on several carriers and always thought they could handle any kind of medical problem. Live and learn I guess.

  17. Im currently serving un the army I’ve been in 6.5 years .
    On returning from afghan in 2009 I got diagnosed with ulcerative colitus ,
    I’m about to sit the med board and have been told I could be resettle can anyone tell me what I’m entitled to ?

  18. Hello everyone! I have a close friend who was diagnosed with UC before he was supposed to ship out to Marine boot camp. He has a very slight case, and since he caught it early on, no surgery is needed and he doesn’t get flare ups. Do you know if there is any way he could get a waiver? I know it all seems to be blatant that he can’t, but he really has nothing else wrong and his UC really isn’t bad. He also has a chance of being cured because he has such a mild case and he caught it so early on. Any ideas? I’ve heard that talking to a specialist would be a good idea…

  19. Is this thread still active? If so, I’d like to really be able to get in contact with all of you. I was in the Marine Corps for 4.5 years, and deployed overseas to the Middle East for a year of that time. While being over, I was developing symptoms of horrible pain aches (stomach, joints, body), bloody loose bowel movements, and dramatic weight loss. After finally getting noticed, I was MEDEVAC out of country to Germany where I had a colonoscopy done, and diagnosed with UC. Months passed and I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, Hyperactive Airway Disease, Anemia, and PTSD. I was Medically Separated in October 2013. I have no luck in controlling my symptoms and still continue with the bloody movements, and gaining unwanted weight now. No one in my family, at all, has a history of this, and I am very weary about it. How is it that we all are or have served with this condition? Especially with a vast majority of us all over the country and deployed as well?

  20. to echo B.Tex and a few of the more recent posts, can anyone shed some light on how Lab Rat’s situation finished out and how he managed to get a 90% rating?

    If not, what type of MEB ratings and VA ratings have other people received?

    1. For me, they only gave me 60% because they didn’t deem it any worse. Even though, I when I spoke to the JAG Lawyer, I was supposed to get over 80%. I’m going to get re-evaluated here soon, and will appeal for a different rating. At least to stress the importance to them of how this is affecting my personal life and work.

  21. 30% here. They said my health was better then fair during periods of remission. For one… I don’t think I’ve hit remission yet. Secondly…. I have to take vitamin d/calcium supplements or the arthritis takes over. I’ve been on steroids since I was diagnosed two years ago. I was thinking of going in for a higher rating. My rep says to be careful as they can lower your rating if they deem you are getting better. You don’t get better with this disease.

  22. interesting, thank you for the responses. I have my QTC appointments over the next few weeks and will let you know how things turn out. I had 3 documented flares in the first year, anemia, malnutrition and arthritis symptoms documented in each, 2 hospital stays, so we’ll see what they determine. good to know about the determination they made on your health between flares

  23. I also came home from Iraq with Crohns, IBS, and GERD. VA says nothing was wrong with me even though my colon had to be removed by a civilian GI Dr. All claims were rejected by the VA even though I was approved by the Army Medical board and discharged. The VA is unjust and a joke.

  24. I’m not sure if this thread is still active but i had a quick question. After being accused of malingering multiple times, i was finally diagnosed with a severe case of chrons. I lost a lot of weight, experienced extreme malnutrition, and now am anemic. I recieved my findings this week, 30%DOD for chrons. I was told in 18 months i would be reevaluated and if i was stable and in remission i would be dropped to a 10% and taken off of medical retirement. Has this happened to anyone else? i just need some advice im so frustrated with all of this. I don’t even want to get out, and theyre treating me like i made up being sick.

  25. Guys, I fully understand your pain on all this. Unfortunately, with the downsizing and budget cuts, the DOD is cutting anywhere they can.

    I graduated near the top of my class in every school I attended while in the Marine Corps. I received my commission and was excited to start my stint in the fleet.

    Then, I was diagnosed with UC after a single, minor flare up. I have had it 100% controlled for 3 years now. That didn’t stop the Marine Corps from kicking me to the curb within 6 months of being diagnosed.

    I seriously wish the best for you all. Getting the right to serve taken away is one of the most challenging things you can experience, and there are few people that fully understand that. The purpose of this comment isn’t to get you down or be pessimistic, just prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

  26. it’s so comforting to see that my country’s military opinion of UC’ers is the same as the U.S.’s.
    I was told for 2 years that I “just had hemorrhoids”. Never was allowed to see a military doctor (or any doctor for that matter). After 2 years of bleeding rectally, having mononucleosis, and pushing myself to work/study/exercise for 20-22 hrs per day, my Mother threatened to call Ottawa to tell them to let me see a “real” doctor. (my apologies for all the decent medical personnel out there). I was sent downtown to see a GI, saw a GI in Vancouver and Victoria, was put on medication (Asacol) after failures with prednisone and Sulfasalazine after 4 hospital stays in 8 months. Civilian GI’s couldn’t believe that I had been left for so long. 3 other males on my base had UC but they had no repercussions. I was told that I would be released medically with no medical pension. When asked why no medical pension I was told (by the military doctor) that there was nothing wrong with me. Asking why I was being released medically, even though there was “nothing wrong with me”, the doctor just replied that I would be released medically with no medical pension. And on and on and on. My husband came with me to one appointment and when the doctor said that young women in my position often felt like this (mentally) my husband said, “she’s bleeding from her rectum, not from her head”.
    Outcome? It sounds like our employers (the government) is shirking it’s duties after many years service and overseas deployments. How reprehensible.

  27. I am in the Health Professions Scholarship program of the Armed Forces, a program in which the Army, Navy, or Air Force pays for my medical school tuition and gives me a monthly stipend given that I serve them. Because of my medical condition (not a definitive diagnosis, possibly UC according to colonoscopy) I am currently physically disqualified to be on Active Duty which means I cannot complete clerkships in military hospitals. This is affecting my chances of getting into residency (post-graduate medical training) in the military so I am extremely disappointed that such a circumstance is holding back my career. I took mesalamine before but I have been off for 3 months without problems. In fact, I think mesalamine makes me have more loose, abnormal stool and I am better without ANY medications.

    However, I do not see anything in the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) health waiver document indicating that if I do not take medications to control Inflammatory Bowel Disease I am not disqualified. Does anyone here know the exact rules? Maybe my situation is a “gray area”? The document that I am referring to is titled “Manual of the Medical Department” from the US Navy – one of the Army physicians I know sent it to me to assist me.

    I really want to be retained!!! It’s been almost 8 months since I submitted my medical documents to BUMED and there is no decision yet due to my complicated case. What should I do – perhaps get my civilian gastroenterologist to write a note saying that I haven’t been refilling my meds? Any other ideas? I would like a waiver by the end of September so I could get orders for an October clerkship I already scheduled well in advance.

  28. I am in the Army (active duty) and have been diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis- moderate to severe. Talking to my doctor, the ingestion of doxycycline (pill given to soldiers to help fight against contracting malaria) for 12 months daily on my tour to Afghanistan was a leading cause. It is a powerful antibiotic and it does not discriminate in the amount of or type of bacteria it destroys. It will kill the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract which will cause many problems once it is removed. This is when the Ulcerative Colitis can be born and thrive.

  29. I’m in the Navy, got diagnosed probably a year and a half ago. They put me on Prednizone to start which didn’t do much at all except weight gain. Then over the course of things I was put on Lialda, sulfasalazine, Celebrex for joint pains(helped for about a week), Gabapentin, Azathioprine, and Humira. Taking all of these at the same time. I can usually get about 3 days a month where it doesn’t hurt just to exist. All I can say is be careful about what you put in your body, what the docs give you to help may actually make it more miserable. I would almost rather just have the Crohn’s symptoms and keep spare uniform and live like a toddler than hurt so bad that if I had the capacity to cry I would.

    Take care of your body and learn to read what its telling you, at least you’ll be able to plan your days.

  30. If you are an OEF or OIF vet talk to your GI doctor about the large doses of doxycycline that you were forced to take for numerous months (I was given 100mg for 400 days). The label says to stay out of the sun and to take with food. As you all know both are impossible. doxycycline is known to cause UC.

  31. Hi, I am currently trying to join the Air Force working as a mechanic of some sort. I have been diagnosed with proctitis for several years. I have never been on any medication for it and have never really had any issues with the condition. My question is, is this a certain disqualifying disease?

  32. My Son is an Army Ordnance officer at Ft. Stewart and was diagnosed with UC a couple of months ago. Like many others here, he was put on prednisone to get the UC under control but then taken off and put on humira. The humira is a self injection. As a result he was recently put in a non-deployable status by his doctor. This was devastating news and he’s been told that if he’s not deployable, he can’t do training missions which means he can’t get promoted. Can anyone shed any light on what, if any, alternatives he may have in order to stay in the Army? He’s only been in a few years and has dedicated his life to having an Army career.

  33. I was in the Marine Corps 99-03. In 2001 I spent time in Greece and when i returned to Camp Lejeune I suffered from abdominal pain. X Ray showed severe constipation. ( I was literally for of Shit) I continued to have constipation issues, bleeding, cramping and muscle aches. I was never treated or diagnosed with anything. I EASed in December of 2002 and came back to the states from Okinawa. A year or so later I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis. Over the years it has become very severe and life altering. I remain in almost a constant flair. I’ve been out for a long time now. Has anyone had any success in linking this condition to the military without any diagnosis during active duty? I have no idea what triggered it but its ruined my life.

  34. I have had PTSD for 25 years and finally did something about it 2 years ago and receive therapy through VA Canada. I have also had Chronic Ulcerative Colitis (Pancolitis) for 20 years, have gone through every drug known, and now on Tofacitinib (Xeljanz) for 18 months an in remission for the time being. We will see how long this one works before they decide to remove my colon. Has anyone any experience with PTSD (Stress) being connected to Ulcerative Colitis Flare Ups. I have read that Stress can be a factor to a flare up, but has anybody dealt with Veterans Affairs over the issue….thanks…

Leave a Reply to MikeArmy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.