Is ulcerative colitis hereditary

What is ulcerative colitis & its cause

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the large intestine that can cause ulcers to form in the lining of the intestine. It causes severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. The term "colitis" is made up of the Greek term "colon" (= large intestine) and the Greek word ending "itis" (inflammation). The term "ulcerosa" comes from the Latin term "ulcus" (= ulcer ).

Ulcerative colitis begins at the end of the intestine in the rectum and spreads continuously towards the stomach. Either only the rectum, parts of the colon or the entire large intestine can be affected. The last piece of the small intestine is rarely inflamed. Ulcerative colitis usually takes place in phases, i.e. the intestinal mucosa is inflamed in phases and then recovers. When and how often such an inflammatory flare-up occurs varies greatly from patient to patient. Ulcerative colitis is first treated with medication. If the medication no longer works or if complications arise, it may be necessary to remove the entire colon in one operation.

In Germany, around 100-200 people per 100,000 population suffer from ulcerative colitis. The disease most commonly affects people between the ages of 20 and 34.


The cause of the disease is inflammation of the intestinal wall. While the entire intestinal wall is inflamed in Crohn's disease, in ulcerative colitis it only affects the intestinal mucosa. It is not known what causes the inflammation. Diet, infections and a disturbed immune system play an important role in the onset of the disease.

There appears to be a genetic predisposition to the disease, as it is more common in some families. For siblings of ulcerative colitis patients, the risk of getting sick is 10 to 50 times higher than for the rest of the population; For identical (identical) twins, the risk of becoming ill is 50-60% if one of the siblings is also ill. In addition, various environmental factors are likely to influence the onset of the disease. This is supported by the fact that it has occurred more and more frequently in recent decades, especially in western industrial societies.

The psyche can also possibly influence the development: Many people with ulcerative colitis feel attached to important caregivers. They fear separation and are often dependent on these caregivers. A separation or a possible imminent separation from these people can trigger a flare-up of colitis. Studies have shown that people with ulcerative colitis react more strongly to emotional stress with intestinal complaints than healthy people.