Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine)

Abdomen | Gastroenterology | Colitis (inflammation of the large intestine) (Disease)


The medical term colitis refers to any kind of swelling or inflammation of the large intestine (colon). The colon is part of the digestive system, being located near the end of the digestive tract, after the small intestine and before the rectum and anus. The primary functions of the large intestine are to absorb fluids from food remnants and produce stool, or feces.

Colitis may be acute and self-limited or chronic, persistent, and broadly fits into the category of digestive disorders. The signs and symptoms of colitis are quite variable and may dependent on the cause of the given colitis and factors that modify its course and severity.

Common symptoms of colitis include pain or cramping, abdominal bloating, bloody stools, excessive gas, diarrhea, and a constant urge to have a bowel movement. Treatment of colitis depends on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Signs may include: changes in bowel habits (increased frequency), abdominal tenderness, weight loss, fever, diarrhea and distension, bleeding (overt or occult)/bloody stools.

All types of colitis are associated with inflammation of the colon, though some types may be more severe and potentially more dangerous than others. When a patient complains of diarrhea and pain with or without bloody stool, it is important to diagnose correct the type of colitis since treatments are different for each types of colitis.

There are many types of colitis. They are usually classified by the etiology.

Types of colitis include:

(1) autoimmune (Inflammatory bowel disease - a group of chronic colitides; Ulcerative colitis - a chronic colitis that affects the large intestine; Crohns disease - a type of IBD often leads to a colitis) ;

(2) idiopathic (Microscopic colitis - a colitis is diagnosed by microscopic examination of colonic tissue; Lymphocytic colitis)

(3) iatrogenic (Diversion colitis, Chemical colitis)

(4) vascular disease (Ischemic colitis)

(5) Infectious (infectious colitis)

Causes and Risk factors

Inflammation of the colon can be caused by a variety of illnesses and infections. Viruses and bacteria can cause colon infections. Most are food-borne illnesses or food poisoning. Common bacterial causes include Shigella, E Coli, Salmonella and Campylobacter. These infections may cause bloody diarrhea and can result in significant dehydration.

Parasites such as giardia can cause significant diarrhea. The parasite can enter the body when infected water is swallowed. The source may be from recreational water such as rivers, lakes, and swimming pools. It may also be contaminated from a water well or cistern.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A history and physical exam will be performed. Stool studies will be done to identify bacteria, parasites or clostridium dificile toxin.

Treatment depends...

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