Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease affecting the large intestine (colon) where the lining of the colon becomes inflamed and develops small sores or ulcers.
These sores produce blood or mucous and can cause significant discomfort and result in frequent emptying of the colon. The exact cause of UC is unknown, but researchers believe that it is the result of an abnormal response by the body’s immune system. Under normal circumstances, the immune system correctly distinguishes friendly foreign substances (eg. food, good bacteria) from harmful foreign substances (eg. bad bacteria, viruses) and uses the immune system and the friendly substances to fight the harmful substances. In people with ulcerative colitis, the immune system mistakenly sees all substances as harmful and sends out a steady stream of white blood cells to destroy them. The constant flow of white blood cells creates inflammation in the lining of the colon resulting in the sores and ulcers. The immune system is turned on constantly by mistake and is not able to turn off. There is not yet a cure for ulcerative colitis. Treatment options are designed to control inflammation in the bowels. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms, the location of the inflammation in the colon and how much of the colon is affected.