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 provider for a physical exam.

Colitis is categorized based on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Infectious causes of colitis

Colitis may arise from acute (sudden) or chronic (long-lasting) intestinal infections by viruses, bacteria and parasites including:

  • CMV colitis (infection caused by cytomegalovirus)

  • Cryptosporidium enterocolitis (parasitic infection)

  • Food poisoning from a wide variety of pathogens, such as botulism, cholera, E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella and viruses

  • Pseudomembranous colitis (overgrowth of Clostridium difficile caused by antibiotic therapy)

Inflammatory causes of colitis

Inflammatory causes of colitis include:

  • Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the digestive tract)

  • Microscopic colitis (inflammatory condition that must be diagnosed by looking at cells with a microscope; sometimes called collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis)

  • Ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel disease that only affects the colon)

Other causes of colitis

Other causes of colitis can include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS; digestive discomfort that does not cause intestinal damage or serious disease)

  • Ischemic colitis (insufficient flow of blood to the colon)

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (disorder that primarily affects premature or sick infants and results in death of large intestine tissue)

  • Radiation of the colon

What are the risk factors for colitis?

Depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition, a number of factors may increase your chances of developing colitis. Similarly, preventing colitis depends on the specific type and cause of colitis. Some common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to food, water, soil, or other substances contaminated by viruses, bacteria or parasites that cause intestinal infections

  • Family history of irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or other type of colitis

  • Premature birth

  • Smoking

INTRODUCTION

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.... Read more about colitisintroduction

SYMPTOMS

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.... Read more about colitissymptoms

TREATMENTS

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.... Read more about colitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 8, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 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


Did You Know?

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common disorders diagnosed by doctors. In fact, it's estimated that as many as 20 percent of adults have symptoms of IBS.