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Let’s talk about ulcerative colitis


Doctor-approved details on the causes, symptoms, treatments, and a jillion other facts and tips that can make life with UC easier.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis, Anyway?

Ulcerative colitis: Even the name is a mouthful. But let’s break it down. UC is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the colon (that’s the colitis part) and rectum. That inflammation leads to ulcers (that’s the ulcerative part), or open sores, in the intestinal lining that can bleed or leak pus and mucus. Along with that may come other symptoms like severe and frequent diarrhea and pain. You may also hear the term “colitis,” but know that ulcerative colitis and plain “colitis” are very different things. Colitis is short-term inflammation of the colon, whereas ulcerative colitis is a more serious chronic disease.

UC is one of two main types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease is the other. While Crohn’s and UC are similar, there are some key differences—the main one being that UC is typically related to inflammation concentrated in the large intestine, while Crohn’s may affect any part of the digestive tract.

What’s happening inside your body when you have UC?

Let’s start with the immune system. A healthy immune system protects the body from invaders, like bacteria and viruses, by triggering temporary inflammation (called the “immune response”) to help fight them off. After the infection is cleared, the inflammation typically goes away.

But that’s not how things go down with UC. Instead, the immune system doesn’t get the message that the fight is over, so the level of inflammation stays high—and healthy tissue becomes collateral damage. In the case of UC, the lining of the colon and rectum become the misdirected target. However, this kind of chronic inflammation can eventually lead to symptoms body-wide.

Posted on: November 28 2019

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