People who develop ulcerative colitis after age 50 years are more likely to experience remission a year after diagnosis than those with earlier-onset disease.

To learn more about the influence of age on the presentation, clinical course, and therapeutic response of patients with adult-onset ulcerative colitis, researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of 295 people treated at the inflammatory bowel disease clinics at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis over a seven-year period (Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010;8:682-687). Newly diagnosed adults aged 18 to 30 years were defined as early-onset; those 50 or older at diagnosis were late-onset.

Members of the two groups exhibited similar levels of disease extent and symptom severity when diagnosed. One year later, 64% of the late-onset patients had achieved steroid-free clinical remission, compared with 49% of the younger individuals. When systemic steroid therapy was involved, 50% of the late-onset patients and only 32% of the early-onset group achieved steroid-free remission by the one-year mark.

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Disease risk factors differed between the two groups: For the older people, smoking status was a more common risk factor, whereas most of the early-onset patients had a family history of ulcerative colitis.