Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis

1.      Definition

The colon, or large intestine, is a part of the digestive system. Its functions are to absorb water, salts and remaining nutrients and move the waste content to the rectum. The colon contains billions of bacteria, creating a healthy gut environment for the digestive system.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease of the large intestine, in which the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and small ulcers are formed throughout the large intestine. The ulcers create pus and mucus from the infections, which altogether with the inflammation cause stomach discomfort, frequent needs to empty bowels and bleeding.

Ulcerative colitis is an auto-immune disease, in which the body’s immune system mistake food, bacteria and other material from the colon (including its own cell) to be foreign and dangerous substances. As a result, the body’s white blood cells rush in and start attacking the lining of the colon, causing inflammation.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:

– Abdomen discomfort and pain

– Blood or pus in the stool

– Tiredness, anemia

– Weight loss, loss of appetite

– Rectal bleeding

Ulcerative colitis usually develops overtime, with symptoms starting mildly and gradually worsens. It can cause serious complications such as rectal bleeding, dehydration and malabsorption. People with ulcerative colitis have a higher chance of developing colon cancer.

2.      Epidemiology

Approximately 1 to 1.3 million US citizens suffer from ulcerative colitis. While the number of incidences in developed countries such as North America and Western Europe region, reported cases of ulcerative colitis are rising in developing countries in the regions of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Mortality rate of patients with UC has shown to be decreasing over time, presumably due to the advancement of medicines and surgery techniques. Currently, patients with UC can have a similar or slightly higher mortality rate than the general population.

Deaths in patients with UC are mainly caused by its complication and relating diseases, and not by the disease itself. UC is responsible for approximately 17% of deaths in patients, in which the two biggest causes are colorectal cancer and post-operative infection.

UC has been shown to be more common in patients age 30-40 and have a slightly higher prevalence in male.

3.      Causes and risk factors

The cause of UC is still unknown. However, several factors can increase the chance of patients suffering from UC:

– Gender: UC is more common in male than female.

– Ethnicity: UC occurs more commonly in patients of Caucasians and Ashkenazic Jewish origin.

– Hereditary: patients with family members suffering from UC are more likely to develop the condition.

– Environment and nutritional factors: certain stressors and food types can exacerbate the condition, or start the symptoms.