Ulcerative colitis commonly called colon ulcer is a disease in which there is chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. The inflammation can cause the lining tissue to break down, forming ulcerations that can bleed.
Inflammation can involve the entire colon or only parts of it. Ulcerative colitis requires treatment almost always.
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, but it is believed to be somehow related to abnormal immunologic reactions of the body to the bacteria normally found in the colon. There is no evidence that diet causes this.
Abdominal pain and weight loss are warning signs of ulcerative colitis.
The main symptoms caused by colon ulcer are abdominal pain and diarrhea, usually bloody. However, symptoms vary in severity from mild to severe.
The chronic inflammation and symptoms of ulcerative colitis, if not controlled, have general effects on nutrition; poor appetite, loss of weight, and poor growth in children are common.
Other warning signs associated with the colonic inflammation in the disease are complications that are not a direct result of the inflammation in the colon.
Some of these complications are generalized symptoms and signs of inflammation such as fever, fatigue, and anemia. Others are the result of inflammation occurring outside of the colon such as arthritis and skin sores.
Ulcerative colitis is considered to be related to Crohn’s disease, another chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines (both are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease); however, Crohn’s disease, unlike ulcerative colitis, is not limited to the colon.
Crohn’s disease usually involves the small intestine or small intestine and colon although occasionally it too is limited to the colon.
Irritable bowel syndrome is another chronic gastrointestinal disorder having abdominal pain and diarrhea as its main symptoms just as ulcerative colitis.
However, the cause of irritable bowel syndrome is believed to be dysfunction of the nerves and muscles of the intestines since there is no identifiable inflammation.
Ulcerative colitis is common in developed nations, and is more common in cities than in the countryside. Approximately 700,000 people in the U.S. suffer from ulcerative colitis.
Individuals with ulcerative colitis usually develop the disease between ages 15 and 25 although the disease may begin at any age. There seems to be a genetic component since ulcerative colitis is more common among relatives of individuals with ulcerative colitis.
Caucasians and individuals of eastern European Jewish descent are more likely to develop ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis is associated with important complications in parts of the body unconnected with the colon. Inflammation may involve the spine and large joints (arthritis).
Serious skin ulcerations may occur. A serious liver disease, sclerosing cholangitis, occurs in a small number of people with ulcerative colitis. All of these complications involve inflammation and the immune system just like in the colon.
Some of these complications improve with successful treatment of the colitis, others do not.