What Causes Ulcerative Colitis?
What’s the problem?
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the large intestine (colon). The colon is the part of the digestive system where waste material is stored. The rectum is at the end of the colon adjacent to the anus. In patients with ulcerative colitis, ulcers and inflammation of the inner lining of the colon lead to symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.
The cause of ulcerative colitis is still largely unknown. To date, there has been no convincing evidence that the disease is caused by infection. Ulcerative colitis is caused by abnormal activation of the immune system in the intestines. The immune system is composed of the immune cells and the proteins that these cells produce. These cells and proteins defend the body against harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other foreign invaders. Activation of the immune system causes inflammation within the tissues where the activation occurs. Normally, the immune system is activated only when the body is exposed to harmful invaders. In patients with ulcerative colitis, however, the immune system is abnormally and chronically activated in the absence of any known invader. This continued abnormal activation of the immune system causes chronic inflammation and ulceration.
The results of a new study add to the evidence that the side effects of Accutane may increase the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the study found that the use of Accutane increased the risk of developing ulcerative colitis by a factor of four.