Cause of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis and the Immune System

People with ulcerative colitis tend to have problems with their immune systems, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause, or a result, of the disease.
 
The human immune system is made from cells and different proteins that protect people from infections. The most popular theory is that the body's immune system reacts abnormally in people with ulcerative colitis, mistaking bacteria, foods, and other substances for foreign substances. The immune system's response is to attack these "invaders." During this process, white blood cells accumulate in the lining of the intestines, producing chronic inflammation, which leads to ulcerations and bowel injury.
 
Researchers also think that the immune system may play a role in the development of ulcerative colitis, since several complications of ulcerative colitis are known to be related to a problem with the immune system. This includes certain types of arthritis seen in ulcerative colitis patients (enteropathic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis) and problems with the bile ducts (pericholangitis).
 

What About Environmental Causes?

Foreign substances, also referred to as antigens, are found in the environment. One possible cause of inflammation in people with ulcerative colitis may be the body's reaction to these antigens. Or it could be that the antigens themselves are the cause of the inflammation. Some scientists think that a protein produced by the immune system, called anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF), may be a possible cause of the inflammation associated with ulcerative colitis.
 

Factors That Are Not Causes of Ulcerative Colitis

While they do not know the specific causes, doctors do know a number of things that do not cause the disease. For example, they know that food sensitivities and emotional stress do not cause ulcerative colitis -- though these factors might trigger, or worsen, some of the symptoms of the disease.

Information on Ulcerative Colitis

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