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Abe driven from office by disease he has endured since age 17

Ulcerative colitis is treatable but has no known cure

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives at a Tokyo hospital for a health check on Aug. 24. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

TOKYO -- The chronic health issue that again forced Shinzo Abe to resign as Japan's prime minister on Friday is ulcerative colitis, a bowel disease that afflicts an estimated 220,000 people in Japan alone.

The condition causes inflammation of the colon, damaging the internal lining and creating ulcers and sores. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and bloody stool, along with anemia, fever and weight loss.

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