Published online Jul 28, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i28.9458
Revised: February 15, 2014
Accepted: June 2, 2014
Published online: July 28, 2014
Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease characterized by diffuse inflammation of the mucosa of the colon and rectum. The hallmark clinical symptom of UC is bloody diarrhea. The clinical course is marked by exacerbations and remissions, which may occur spontaneously or in response to treatment changes or intercurrent illnesses. UC is most commonly diagnosed in late adolescence or early adulthood, but it can occur at any age. The incidence of UC has increased worldwide over recent decades, especially in developing nations. In contrast, during this period, therapeutic advances have improved the life expectancy of patients, and there has been a decrease in the mortality rate over time. It is important to emphasize that there is considerable variability in the phenotypic presentation of UC. Within this context, certain clinical and demographic characteristics are useful in identifying patients who tend to have more severe evolution of the disease and a poor prognosis. In this group of patients, better clinical surveillance and more intensive therapy may change the natural course of the disease. The aim of this article was to review the epidemiology and demographic characteristics of UC and the factors that may be associated with its clinical prognosis.
Core tip: Ulcerative colitis has gained importance over the past few decades due to its increasing incidence rate worldwide. This condition is a chronic disease that affects quality of life, and it can lead to death if not treated properly. Over the past few decades, advances in treatment have provided benefits for patients, including a reduction in mortality. Due to phenotypic variability, different therapeutic modalities may be used. It is important to recognize the factors associated with a more severe clinical course so that clinical decisions can be made as early as possible.