Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition of the colon. The inflammation is usually limited to the rectum and lower colon, but it may also involve the entire colon.
Ulcerative colitis differs from another inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract from mouth to anus. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, affects only the colon.
About 700,000 people in the United States have ulcerative colitis, with males and females affected equally. On average, people are diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in their mid-30s, although the disease can occur at any age.
Though the cause of ulcerative colitis is not fully understood, researchers believe it to be a result of a combination of factors involving genetics, the environment, and the immune system.
Ulcerative colitis can be difficult to diagnose, because symptoms can be similar to other intestinal disorders. Patients with suspected ulcerative colitis can be referred to gastroenterologists who specialize in ulcerative colitis and other IBDs.