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What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a serious autoimmune condition that affects your digestive tract. If you have this disease, you know all too well how an inflamed colon affects digestion and daily comfort. You may experience diarrhea with blood or pus, abdominal cramping, rectal pain, bowel urgency, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. 

You may wonder how you got so unlucky as to develop ulcerative colitis. The truth is, researchers still don’t understand the origins of this lifelong condition either.

Our team at Digestive Disorders Associates treats all forms of inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis (UC). Here’s what they know about the reasons why you have this disease. 

Abnormal immune response

In most people, the cells and proteins that are part of your immune system protect you from disease. People with autoimmune diseases have a faulty immune system. Instead of protecting you from disease, the immune system attacks healthy cells within your body. 

In the case of UC, the immune system attacks the tissue that makes up the lining of your colon (large intestine). This causes pus- and mucus-producing ulcers to form. You experience abdominal pain and a need to frequently empty your colon as a result. 

Experts aren’t sure what triggers this autoimmune response, but believe it may have something to do with an interaction between a virus or bacterial infection in the colon and your immune system. Instead of turning off when your infection has resolved, the immune system continues to send white blood cells to your colon lining — causing the inflammation and ulcers associated with ulcerative colitis. 

Other contributing factors

Genetics also play a role in your chances of developing UC. If a close family member had the disease, it’s more likely that you’ll develop the condition, too. 

Another potential cause of ulcerative colitis has to do with your gut microbiome. This refers to the normal bacteria that exists within your gut and is important to good digestive health. If the contents of your microbiome are disrupted, you may get the colon inflammation associated with UC. 

Environmental factors like smoking, drugs, air or water pollution, and food additives may also have something to do with the onset of ulcerative colitis. 

Know your risk factors

UC can affect anyone at any age, but diagnosis most often occurs when you’re in your mid-30s. It can affect any age or racial group. Whites, however, are most often diagnosed with the condition. Those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent have the highest risk of developing ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis affects men and women equally, but older men tend to be diagnosed with the condition more often than older women. 

Patients struggling with UC get the very best care from our team at Digestive Disorders Associates. We want to help you manage the disease and live as normal of a life as possible. With the right treatments, you’re more likely to avoid complications associated with UC, too. 

To set up an appointment, call one of our offices or use this website to reach out.

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