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Ulcerative Colitis (cont.)

Ulcerative Colitis Causes

The cause of ulcerative colitis is uncertain. Researchers believe that the body's immune system reacts to a virus or bacteria, causing ongoing inflammation in the intestinal wall. Although UC is considered to be a problem with the immune system, some researchers believe that the immune reaction may be the result, not the cause, of ulcerative colitis.

While ulcerative colitis is not caused by emotional stress or food sensitivities, these factors may trigger symptoms in some people.

Risk factors for inflammatory bowel disease include:

  • Genetic or family history: There is a high similarity of symptoms among identical twins, particularly with Crohn's disease. A person has a greater risk of getting the disease if a first-degree relative such as a parent or a sibling is affected.
  • Infectious agents or environmental toxins: No single agent has been associated consistently as a cause of inflammatory bowel disease. Viruses have been found in tissue samples from people with inflammatory bowel disease, but there is no incriminating evidence that these are the sole cause of the disease.
  • Immune system: Several changes in the immune system have been identified as contributing to inflammatory bowel disease, but none are proven to specifically cause either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Smoking: Smokers increase their risk of developing Crohn's disease by twofold. In contrast, smokers have only one-half the risk of developing ulcerative colitis.
  • Psychological factors: Emotional factors do not cause inflammatory bowel disease. However, psychological factors may modify the course of the disease. For example, stress may worsen symptoms or cause a relapse and may also affect the response to therapy.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/11/2014
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