Ulcerative colitis is one of the two pictures of inflammatory bowel disease; the other picture is Crohn’s disease. It is a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys the lining of the colon and rectum and causes ulcers. It doesn’t only affect the gastrointestinal tract, but also it can affect the skin, bone, joints, and eyes. Ulcerative colitis may lead to severe and life-threatening complications. But, proper management can control the condition, relieves its social and emotional impact, and reduce the risk of long-term complications. Ulcerative colitis develops gradually over a long time. Its course is intermittent, which means that it consists of flares and remissions.
Ulcerative colitis is more common than Crohn’s disease by three times. It is more common in the western populations, such as Europe and North America; it affects about one million people in the united states. Each year, it affects about 10 to 20 new patients per 100,000 people, and about 50 to 500 patients already have the disease. Ulcerative colitis affects all ages, but it has two age peaks. It is common among people between 15 and 25 years and those over 55 years. It affects males and females at an equal rate.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis occur in attacks and vary according to the severity and site of the inflammation. The main symptoms are abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, tenesmus, and rectal bleeding. It also may cause anemia, fatigue, fever, and weight loss. It is uncommon for children, but if it occurred, it would cause growth retardation. Besides the gastrointestinal symptoms, there are extraintestinal symptoms, such as eye pain (uveitis), painful and swollen joints (arthritis), osteoporosis, and skin manifestation (ulcers or nodules). Ulcerative colitis also raises the risk of colon cancer. Other diseases may occur with ulcerative colitis, especially liver diseases (called primary sclerosing cholangitis). According to the severity, ulcerative colitis may be mild, moderate, or severe; most patients experience mild to moderate symptoms. Also, ulcerative colitis has another classification according to its site, rectum, part of the colon, or the whole colon.
Ulcerative colitis has no clear causes, but some risk factors may contribute to the disease or aggravate its symptoms. Some hypotheses suggested that genetic predisposition, immune system malfunction, and environmental factors may play a role. Other aggravating and risk factors include: