What is colitis?

The term colitis refers to any kind of swelling or inflammation of the large intestine (colon). The large intestine is part of the digestive system. It is 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.

A wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions can cause colitis. These include:

  • Inflammatory bowel diseases including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis

  • Insufficient blood flow to the colon

  • Intestinal infections such as Salmonella food poisoning

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Radiation therapy of the colon

The wide variety of causes makes it difficult to estimate how many Americans are affected by colitis. For instance, it is estimated that 1.4 million Americans have inflammatory bowel disease, which includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, inflammatory bowel disease is just one possible cause of colitis. Consequently, it is likely that millions of Americans suffer from some form of colitis (Source: CCFA).

Common symptoms of colitis include abdominal bloating, pain or cramping, bloody stools, diarrhea, excessive gas, and a constant urge to have a bowel movement. Treatment of colitis depends on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. The goal of the clinical evaluation is to identify the root cause(s) of the problem. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan you and your healthcare professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications.

In some cases, colitis can quickly progress from a mild condition to a life-threatening situation. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as bloody and frequent diarrhea, painful bowel movements, vomiting, and abdominal tenderness, especially when the abdomen is pressed on. These symptoms may be combined with pale or blue lips, fast heart rate, shallow breathing, weakness, and anxiety. Seek prompt medical care for colitis symptoms that recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of colitis?

Symptoms of colitis depend on the specific type of colitis and its cause. Symptoms generally affect the digestive tract, but can also include fever, chills and dehydration.

Common symptoms of colitis

Depending on the cause of colitis, you may experience colitis symptoms daily or just once ... Read more about colitissymptoms


What causes colitis?

Many different diseases, disorders and conditions can cause colitis. Colitis can be a sign of inflammatory disorders, intestinal infections, lack of blood flow to the colon, and side effects of radiation or medication treatment. Because of the range of possible causes of colitis, a correct diagnosis of the underlying disease, disorder or condition is very important. Contact your healthcare prov... Read more about colitiscauses


How is colitis treated?

Treatment of colitis depends on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms and correct the underlying problem if possible.

Infectious colitis is treated based on the organism (bacteria, virus or parasite) that is known or likely to be causing the infection. Antibiotics may... Read more about colitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Digestive System

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