What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes inflammation and sores, called ulcers, in the inner lining of the wall of the colon. The inflammation usually occurs in the rectum and the lower part of the colon, but it can affect the whole bowel. Ulcerative colitis rarely affects the small intestine, except for the lower part, called the ileum. Ulcerative colitis is also called colitis, ileitis or proctitis.

The inflammation mobilizes the bowel and prevents water absorption, causing diarrhea. Ulcers are produced in places where inflammation has killed the cells of the intestinal lining. The ulcers bleed and produce pus and mucus.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and is the general name for conditions that cause inflammation in the intestines. Ulcerative colitis can be difficult to diagnose as its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and another type of IBD called Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease, however, differs from ulcerative colitis because it causes deep inflammation in the intestinal wall, inflammation that extends to all layers of the wall. Crohn’s disease often affects the small intestine, but it can also affect the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, duodenum, colon, cecum and anus.

Ulcerative colitis most commonly occurs in people aged 15 to 40, although children and older people can also sometimes develop the condition. Ulcerative colitis affects men and women equally often and there appears to be an inheritance in some families.

What causes Ulcerative Colitis?

There are many theories about what causes ulcerative colitis, but none have been fully confirmed. The most popular theory holds that the body’s immune system reacts to a virus or bacteria, causing ongoing inflammation in the intestinal wall. People with ulcerative colitis have abnormalities in the immune system, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or a result of the condition. Ulcerative colitis is not caused by emotional stress or sensitivity to certain foods or food products. These factors, however, can trigger symptoms in some people.