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 in a while. At times any of these colitis symptoms can be severe:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Constant urge to have a bowel movement
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive gas (flatulence)
  • Weight loss

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Some cases of colitis can quickly progress from a minor condition to a life-threatening situation, such as toxic megacolon (rapid, extreme widening of the colon) and shock. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have colitis and any of the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal tenderness when the abdomen is pressed

  • Bloody diarrhea or bloody stool (the blood may be red, black or tarry in texture)

  • Change in alertness of level of consciousness, such as lethargy or passing out

  • Fast or uneven heart rate or palpitations

  • Frequent diarrhea

  • Painful bowel movements

  • Shallow breathing

  • Symptoms of dehydration (loss of body fluids that can cause excessive thirst, dry mouth, light-headedness, dizziness, little or dark-colored urine, and weakness)

  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, the symptoms of colitis may indicate a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Diarrhea lasting longer than two or three days

  • Mild to moderate abdominal pain

  • Nausea and vomiting that prevent you from keeping down liquids

  • Recurring bouts of diarrhea


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 wi... Read more about colitisintroduction


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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