What is Colitis?
Colitis is a disease marked by the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon, also known as the large intestine. It is a chronic digestive disease.
There are many different types of colitis. They include:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Pseudomembranous colitis
- Infectious colitis
- Microscopic colitis
- Ischemic colitis
- Allergic colitis
General colitis symptoms include:
- Intense abdominal pain or cramps
- Tenderness in the abdomen
- Diarrhea, either with or without blood
- Blood in the stool
- Increased frequency in bowel movements
- Fever or chills
- Rapid weight loss
Who is at risk?
Different colitis risk factors are related to different types of colitis.
A person is at risk of ulcerative colitis if they,
- Are aged between 15 and 30, or 60 and 80
- Have a family member with the disease
- Are of Jewish or Caucasian descent
Risk of pseudomembranous colitis is high if they,
- Are hospitalized
- Are older
- Are taking long-term antibiotics
- Are receiving chemotherapy
- Are taking immunosuppressant drugs
- Have had the disease before
Risk of ischemic colitis is high if they,
- Are over the age of 50
- Have low blood pressure
- Have had an abdominal operation
- Are suffering from or are at risk of a heart disease
- Have heart failure
The causes of colitis characterize the type of colitis suffered by a person. Different types of colitis with the reasons of colitis are:
- Ulcerative colitis: It is the most common type of colitis and occurs when the immune system overreacts to bacteria.
- Pseudomembranous colitis: It occurs from the overgrowth of bacterium Clostridium difficile. While the bacteria normally lives in the intestine, it is naturally balanced by the good bacteria in the intestine.
- Ischemic colitis: It occurs when the blood supply to the colon is restricted or cut off, which could be due to blood clots. Recurrent IC could be the result of fatty depositions in the blood vessels that supply the colon. IC is often the result of underlying conditions like vasculitis, diabetes, colon cancer, trauma, heart failure, etc.
- Microscopic colitis: The exact cause for this type of colitis is not known. However, people who are at a higher risk of the disease are females, people older than age if 50, current smokers, and people with a history of autoimmune diseases.
- Allergic colitis in infants: It usually occurs in infants within the first two months after birth and can cause symptoms like reflux, excessive spitting up, fussiness, and possible flecks of blood in the stool. The exact cause of allergic colitis in infants is unknown. However, certain theories project that a hypersensitive reaction to certain components in breast milk could be the reason.
P.S. Infection from parasites and viruses, food poisoning from bacteria, and radiation are other possible causes of colitis.
How is colitis diagnosed?
A colitis doctor may first inquire about the frequency of the symptoms and their occurrence. For colitis diagnosis, the doctor may perform a thorough physical exam using the following diagnostic tests:
- Testing the stool for blood and pus
- Abdominal imaging tests such as MRI or CT scans
- Barium enema
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How is Colitis treated?
Colitis treatment depends on varied factors like age, type and cause of colitis, and the overall physical condition of the patient. Early detection of the disease will help avoid any serious complications and may aid a great deal in the treatment of the disease as well as a recovery from the disease.
The initial therapy is to help control the pain faced by the patient and stabilization of the important symptoms. Rehydration may be achieved by mouth feeding. However, for patients who are not able to tolerate fluids through the mouth, taking fluids and other nutrition intravenously may be required.
The doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine for colitis swelling and pain as well as antibiotics to treat the infection, if any. The doctor may also use pain medications or antispasmodic drugs in colitis cure.
Gastroenterologists may suggest surgery for removal of part or all of the colon or rectum, if other treatments do not work.
How can Colitis be prevented?
Prevention of colitis may include being mindful of what you eat. Food trigger symptoms differ from person to person, hence, maintain a food journal will help navigate through the symptoms. Food that can create problems often include:
- Greasy foods
- High fibre foods
- High sugar food and drinks
- Carbonated beverages
- Dairy products
Additional steps for prevention include:
- Exercising regularly
- Getting at least 8 hours of sleep
- Engaging in stress relieving and mindfulness practices.