People aged over 50 are at a higher risk of contacting the inflammatory intestinal disease ulcerative colitis remission compared to youngsters who suffered the diseases, according to data provided by a new study conducted in the United States.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine studied data from 295 patients treated at the inflammatory bowel disease clinics at the Washington University School of Medicine between 2001 and 2008.

At the beginning of the study all patients were about equal in terms of the severity of their symptoms. However, after one year of treatment, it was found that remission occurred in 64 percent of the group who were diagnosed after age 50, compared to 49 percent of those diagnosed at a younger age.

"The age at which patients are affected tends to split into two specific waves. In the clinic, we see a number of patients who get the disease from their late teens to their mid 20s. Then there's a second peak of patients who aren't affected until after the age of 50," says lead investigator Dr. Matthew A. Ciorba, an assistant professor of medicine.

Even though the patients in remission may no longer have clinical symptoms of ulcerative colitis, they may still have inflammation and may need to continue treatment with 5-aminosalicylate (5-ASA) drugs, the university said in a press release.

But the patients in remission can discontinue steroids used to suppressive immune response in ulcerative colitis, said the authors of the study which appears in the August issue of the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the large intestine or colon. It often causes diarrhoea, bloody stool, weight loss and fever. Severe cases may require surgery to remove the colon. It can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders and to another type of bowel disease called Crohn’s disease.

Ulcerative colitis can occur in people of any age, but it usually starts between the ages of 15 and 30, and less frequently between 50 and 70 years of age. It affects men and women equally and appears to run in families, with reports of up to 20 percent of people with ulcerative colitis having a family member or relative with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. A higher incidence of ulcerative colitis is seen in whites and people of Jewish descent.