Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic relapsing form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers in the colon. Symptoms can range from mild to severe with disease onset usually occurring in young adults. Its course is unpredictable but with a strong likelihood of lifelong disease. The disease is a type of colitis, which is a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the colon, the largest section of the large intestine, either in segments or completely. The primary symptom of active disease isdiarrhea mixed with blood. UC has much in common with Crohn's disease, another form of IBD, but unlike Crohn's disease, UC affects only the colon and rectum, rather than the whole GI tract. UC is an intermittent disease, with periods of exacerbated symptoms alternating with relatively symptom-free periods. Although the symptoms of UC can sometimes diminish on their own, the disease usually requires treatment to go into remission.
Although UC has no known cause, there is a presumed genetic risk. This may also involve microbiota and the immune system. Rates tend to be higher in wealthier countries, which may indicate the increased rate is due to better diagnosis. It may also indicate that an industrial or Western diet and lifestyle increases the rate of disease, including symptoms which may or may not be related to UC. The disease may be triggered in a susceptible person by environmental factors. Dietary modification may reduce the discomfort of a person with the disease.
Like Crohn's disease, UC is both classified as and managed as an autoimmune disease. Treatment is with anti-inflammatory medications, immunosuppression, and biological therapy targeting specific components of the immune response.
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