According to a review article published in the journal Lancet, over 200 genetic risk locations (areas on chromosomes) for IBD have been identified. Interestingly, many of these locations contribute to both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. This suggests similarities in the inflammatory processes between these two conditions.7
Another review article, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, points out that some of the genetic locations associated with IBD are involved in epithelium function and regulation of the immune system, both of which are important in the ulcerative colitis disease process. However, the exact role that many of these genetic locations play in IBD risk isn’t fully understood.8
What are some other ulcerative colitis risk factors to be aware of?
Before we dive in, it’s important to know that having ulcerative colitis risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll definitely develop the condition in the future. It simply means you’re at elevated risk compared to others without risk factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are two more to keep in mind beyond your gut health, environment, and genetics:
Age is another potential risk factor. While you can develop ulcerative colitis at any age, it most often shows up in younger individuals, although researchers are still trying to figure out why. According to the NIDDK, people between the ages of 15 and 30 are most likely to develop UC.
The condition may also affect children differently. “Children diagnosed with ulcerative colitis generally experience more of an aggressive disease course than adults,” says Dr. Holmer. She notes that, in children, the entire colon is often involved at the time of an ulcerative colitis diagnosis. This is in contrast to adults, in which ulcerative colitis is often limited to the rectum or the left side of the colon at diagnosis.
Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry
Ulcerative colitis also occurs more commonly in Ashkenazi Jewish people. This group of people has a high prevalence of founder mutations, which are genetic changes that are seen frequently within a community that shares a common ancestry and has been or currently is geographically or culturally isolated.
Founder mutations can increase the risk of various health conditions. In addition to ulcerative colitis, some examples of other health conditions that occur more commonly in the Ashkenazi Jewish population include Tay-Sachs disease, Gaucher disease, and cystic fibrosis.
Do ulcerative colitis causes and Crohn’s disease causes overlap?
In Crohn’s disease, areas of your digestive tract become irritated and inflamed. This can lead to symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, and unintentional weight loss, which heavily overlap with those of ulcerative colitis. While ulcerative colitis only affects your colon, Crohn’s disease can impact any part of your digestive tract. The most commonly affected areas are the last part of your small intestine, called the ileum, and the first part of your colon.
Much like ulcerative colitis, the exact causes of Crohn’s disease remain unclear. Similar factors are believed to play a role, including a dysfunctional immune response and genetics.
According to the NIDDK, the risk factors for Crohn’s disease include family history, smoking cigarettes, and being between the ages of 20 and 29. It’s also possible that eating a high-fat diet or using medications like NSAIDs, antibiotics, or birth control pills may also slightly increase the risk of Crohn’s disease.
Is ulcerative colitis contagious?
No, ulcerative colitis is not contagious. That means that it cannot be passed from one individual to another and does not make the list of potential ulcerative colitis causes.