Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a chronic, or ongoing disease that affects the colon and rectum, together known as the large intestine. The innermost lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed, and ulcers, which are tiny open sores, could form on the surface.
It’s the inflammation in the lining of the colon that causes the painful symptoms commonly associated with UC. Inflammation causes the large intestine to empty frequently, leading to diarrhea that – because of the ulcers – can sometimes be bloody.
Inflammation in ulcerative colitis can involve the colon.
UC, unlike other inflammatory bowel diseases (such as Crohn’s disease) affects only the large intestine, and only its innermost lining. The inflammation is usually found in the rectum and can include some or all of the colon.
However, UC is continuous and though it usually appears in the rectum, it may extend as far as the colon’s entire length. Throughout the course of the disease the area involved could remain the same.
There are several types of UC, with the type depending on where the inflammation is located.
UC has a tendency to run in families.
As many as 700,000 Americans are believed to have UC, and the disease has a tendency to be hereditary. In fact up to 20% of those diagnosed will have a close relative with UC.
Men and women are affected equally by UC, although more men tend to be diagnosed later in life than women.
While the exact cause of ulcerative colitis (UC) remains unknown, medical researchers have determined that inflammation is the result of a complex interaction of factors:
Studies have shown that up to 20% of people with UC also have a close relative with the disease. What they have in common are genes that may make them susceptible to abnormal immune system responses.
In addition, environmental factors (such as viruses or bacteria) may interact with the body’s immune system and trigger the disease—causing inflammation that the body can’t stop.
Medical Research indicates inflammation is triggered by an overactive immune system.
Normally, the immune system causes inflammation to fight against invading substances. Research leads to the belief that in UC patients this inflammation can persist long after the immune system cleared the infection.