It's unclear what causes ulcerative colitis. Studies indicate that it may be a combination of genetics, your immune system, and the environment. Ulcerative colitis tends to run in families, although researchers have yet to understand a clear pattern of inheritance. Diet and stress may aggravate ulcerative colitis, but they do not cause the disease on their own.
Ulcerative colitis is the result of an abnormal immune system response, during which your body mistakes certain bacteria and other materials in the intestine for foreign or invading substances. It then sends white blood cells into the intestines, where they create inflammation. Normally, this would cause a temporary inflammation that would resolve itself. But with ulcerative colitis, researchers believe that once your immune system is "turned on," it doesn't know how to "properly turn off." As a result, chronic inflammation damages the intestine and causes the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease, and some patients may experience their disease worsening over time.
It's important to understand how your condition is affecting you so you can explain it to your doctor. Use the doctor discussion guide to help you prepare for your discussion with your doctor.
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