If you have ulcerative colitis, then you're familiar with the intense cramps, abdominal pain, and restroom urgency a flare can cause. What you might not be familiar with, however, are these seven facts.

1. There Are Different Types of Colitis

Many people are surprised to learn that there are several types of colitis, defined by the area or areas affected by the disease, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). With ulcerative proctitis, inflammation is limited to the rectum. Proctosigmoiditis affects the rectum and the sigmoid colon. In left-sided colitis, the inflammation goes from the rectum to a bend in the colon near the spleen. Pan-ulcerative colitis involves the entire colon.

2. Pregnancy Is Still Possible After Surgery

Surgery is sometimes necessary to remove the colon. If you are trying to get pregnant, it's important to note that your fertility rate after a colectomy with an ileostomy or a J pouch may be reduced slightly, according to the CCFA. In that case, you might want to get pregnant and have your baby first if postponing surgery is an option. For pregnancy after surgery, waiting a year before conceiving may help you avoid postsurgery complications like an obstruction or drop of the ileostomy. For some, pregnancy brings additional benefits, such as a decrease in symptoms and flares, the CCFA says.

3. Sleep Needs to Be Part of Your Treatment Plan

People with ulcerative colitis are sometimes surprised to learn just how important the right amount of sleep is to their disease management, says Ashkan Farhadi, MD, the director of the Digestive Disease Center at MemorialCare Medical Group in Costa Mesa, California.

Women with ulcerative colitis who get less than six or more than nine hours of sleep a day are at increased risk of flares, according to a study published in November 2014 in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Dr. Farhadi recommends establishing a good sleep pattern by going to bed and waking at the same times every day and keeping your bedroom cool and dark so it's more conducive to sleep.

4. Ulcerative Colitis May Be in Your Genes

About 10 to 25 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis have a brother, sister, or parent with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, another common type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), according to the CCFA. One group at higher risk of IBD are Jews of Ashkenazi or eastern European descent. Researchers believe that genetics play a role but have yet to find a specific pattern of inheritance, says Neville Bamji, MD, who practices at New York Gastroenterology Associates and is a clinical instructor of medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Though there's no way to stop ulcerative colitis from developing, if you know it's in your family you may recognize symptoms and talk to your doctor sooner.

5. A Poor Diet Won’t Cause Ulcerative Colitis

One of the frustrating facts about ulcerative colitis is how little is known about its causes. Researchers believe that a number of factors come together and lead your immune system to launch an attack on your intestines. While genetics and environmental triggers may contribute to the development of ulcerative colitis, a poor diet won’t, Farhadi says. Diet, like stress, may exacerbate your symptoms, but it doesn’t cause ulcerative colitis.

6. Colitis Can Affect More Than Your Colon

The effects of ulcerative colitis can expand beyond diarrhea, cramps, and abdominal pain. Joint pain, skin sores, redness in your eyes, kidney stones, and bone thinning are potential manifestations. In some people, certain symptoms can foretell a flare, while in others they can be the very first signs of the disease. About 5 percent of people with ulcerative colitis also experience liver problems such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, according to the CCFA.

7. Ulcerative Colitis Is More Common Than You Might Think

Although it's a disease with symptoms that can be embarrassing, if you have it, you're far from alone in facing it. Colitis affects about 700,000 Americans, and 30,000 people are diagnosed with IBD each year. Ali Lambert Voron, 37, of Briarcliff Manor, New York, has had ulcerative colitis for about 10 years. After her diagnosis, she was surprised to learn how many people know someone else who has struggled with colitis. Voron, who also has alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease that caused her to lose her hair at 16, was amazed and grateful to hear the stories people shared with her. You can find that same kind of encouragement by joining a colitis support group.