Colitis

What Is Colitis?

Colitis is a condition that refers to the general inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. Although Ulcerative Colitis is sometimes called colitis they are not the same thing.

There are many different types of colitis that can cause inflammation in the colon, along with other unique symptoms.

A few common types of colitis:

  • ulcerative colitis (IBD colitis)- causes irritation and swelling of the large intestine
  • microscopic colitis- causes persistent watery diarrhea
  • ischemic (ischaemic) colitis- a result of inadequate blood supply
  • infectious colitis (food poisoning)- a result of ingestion of viruses and bacteria

What Causes Colitis?

There are many different reasons as to why the inner lining of the colon is inflamed. A few of the most common causes include:

  • Loss of blood supply to the colon (ischemia)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Infection- from parasites invading the body
  • Invasion of the colon wall with collagen or lymphocytic white blood cells
  • Some over the counter and prescription medications. Common medications causing colitis include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and mycophenolate.

What are the symptoms of colitis?

Symptoms of possible colitis include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Rapid Weight Loss
  • Changes in bowel habits- including constant urge to have a bowel movement
  • Fever and/or chills (signs of infection)
  • Ulcers on the colon
  • Pain- of the joints, or colon (abdomen)- can come in waves or be constant.
  • Tenderness in the abdomen
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea (with or without blood in the stool)
  • Eye inflammation
  • Canker sores
  • Blood in the stool

What are the treatment options for colitis?

Common treatments across all types of colitis can include:

  • Painkillers
  • Stabilization of vital signs
  • Rehydration of the body- by mouth or intravenously
  • Common IBD medications
  • Adjustment of diet

Depending on the cause of the colitis treatment options may vary.

  • Infections- If the infection is caused by bacteria then antibiotics can be prescribed. If the infection is viral then keeping the body hydrated and allowing time to pass are the best ways to treat the colitis.
  • IBD- If the cause of the inflammation comes in consequence of Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis then anti-inflammatory medications may be used initially and medications that suppress the immune system can be added if necessary. Surgery may be necessary depending on the severity of the colitis.
  • Ischemic colitis- the main treatment for Ischemic colitis is to hydrate the body with intravenous fluids and to rest the bowel. If blood supply is not restored to the colon then surgery might be necessary to remove those parts of the colon that lost blood supply.
  • Microscopic colitis- in some cases, the body can heal itself. It can also be treated with anti-diarrheal medication and some steroids, adjustment of diet, and rarely, surgery.

When should I see a doctor about colitis?

You should see your doctor if any of the following symptoms become severe or if you have any combination of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea persists for more than two weeks
  • Blood in the stool– colitis is not the only cause of rectal bleeding, but blood in the stool is never normal
  • Fever and dehydration
  • Abnormal abdominal pain that worsens over time