Ulcerative colitis - Risk factors

Information on different factors which may contribute to the development of ulcerative colitis.

Why some people develop inflammatory bowel diseaseA group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. (IBDAn abbreviation for inflammatory bowel disease, a group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.) and others do not seems to be due to a combination of factors including genetics, which is your inherited predisposition, along with ethnic origin, your environment, diet and lifestyle.

Genetic factors

IBDAn abbreviation for inflammatory bowel disease, a group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. can be hereditary. If you have a relative who has ulcerative colitis, especially one in your immediate family, you are at greater risk of developing the disease. A recent study in the UK found a new ulcerative colitis geneThe basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes., called ECM1, and further showed that five other genes previously shown to be involved with Crohn's disease also predispose people to ulcerative colitis.

Environmental factors

The body may react to substances in the environment, such as bacteriaA group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell., chemicals or pollen. These substances can potentially trigger the body's defences, in which case they are known as 'antigens'. Such a reaction could lead to uncontrolled inflammationThe body’s response to injury. in the gastrointestinal tractThe gut, which begins at the mouth and ends at the anus..

Where you work

IBDAn abbreviation for inflammatory bowel disease, a group of inflammatory conditions of the intestine. The two major forms are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. is less common among people who work outdoors or in manual occupations.

Geography

Ulcerative colitis is more common in North America and northern Europe than in other parts of the world, such as Asia or Africa.

Age

Ulcerative colitis is generally diagnosed between 20 and 40 years of age.

Diet

Any link between diet and the risk of ulcerative colitis, if it exists, is small. There may be a small risk associated with increased consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Medications

Long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatoryAny drug that suppresses inflammation drugs has been linked with the development or relapse of ulcerative colitis. Women taking oral contraceptives may also be at a slightly (29 per cent) higher risk of developing ulcerative colitis.