Japan PM Abe resigns over ill health: What is ulcerative colitis?

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaving Keio University Hospital in Tokyo on Aug 17, 2020.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaving Keio University Hospital in Tokyo on Aug 17, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has struggled with ulcerative colitis for years. He now keeps it under control with medication that was not previously available.

Here is some information about the disease.


It is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers (sores) in the digestive tract, according to the Mayo Clinic. Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum.


The exact cause of ulcerative colitis remains unknown but experts believed that abnormal immune response, genetics, microbiome, and environmental factors could contribute to the disease.

The Crohn's and Colities Foundation said research suggests that ulcerative colitis could be triggered by an interaction between a virus or bacterial infection in the colon and the body's immune response.

The Mayo Clinic said heredity could play a role in that ulcerative colitis is more common in people who have family members with the disease. However, it also noted that most people with ulcerative colitis don't have this family history.


According to Britain's National Health Service (NHS), some people may go for weeks or months with very mild symptoms, or none at all, followed by periods where there are severe symptoms. It may include diarrhoea, often with blood or pus, abdominal pain and cramping, rectal pain or bleeding and urgency or inability to defecate. It could also lead to weight loss, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite and nausea.


It's more common in white people of European descent, especially those descended from Ashkenazi Jewish communities, and black people, said the NHS. The condition is rarer in people from Asian backgrounds, although the reasons for this are unclear. Both men and women seem to be equally affected by ulcerative colitis.



Treatment for ulcerative colitis is multifaceted and includes the use of medication, alterations in diet and nutrition, and sometimes surgical procedures to repair or remove affected portions of the gastrointestinal tract.

Source: The Mayo Clinic, NHS, Crohn's and Colities Foundation