Colitis: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

This is a chronic disease where the lining of the colon gets damaged due to inflammation. It happens when the immune system responds aggressively and destroys useful nutrients in the intestine. This condition results in the buildup of white blood cells in the intestine and causes inflammation in the lining. The colon gets affected due to this inflammation and causes frequent bowel movements that are usually painful. Along with that, many other symptoms are noticed and it depends on the type of colitis affecting the person. With proper medical care, the problem can be effectively handled and you will be able to lead a normal life.

Types of Colitis

There are many types of colitis and you should be aware of them as the treatment for the problem depends on this factor.

Ulcerative Colitis: Most people suffering from Colitis come under this category and it continues throughout the life. It produces inflammation in the large intestine and it can also lead to bleeding in the inner lining. The most probable cause for this problem is the overreaction of the immune system to the bacteria in the digestive tract. It can spread to the Colon all the way from the rectum and it is the most common inflammatory bowel disease. There are a few types of Ulcerative Colitis.

Left-Sided Colitis: this begins at the rectum and affects the left side of the Colon.

Proctosigmoiditis: this affects the lower region of the Colon along with the rectum.

Total Colitis : this condition affects the entire region of the large intestine.

Ischemic Colitis : in some cases, blood clots can restrict blood to the Colon suddenly leading to this situation. When the problem is occurring frequently, it is usually due to the fat deposited in the blood vessels and this affects the flow of blood to the Colon. People suffering from blood loss, heart problems, colon cancer and diabetes are more prone to get affected with this condition.

Pseudomembranous Colitis : The Clostridium difficile bacterium overgrows in some conditions leading to this condition of colitis. It is normal to have such bacteria in the intestine and they are usually balanced by the good bacteria. When certain antibiotics and other medicines damage the healthy bacteria in the intestine, it causes inflammation due to excessive release of toxins leading to Clostridium difficile buildup in the intestine.

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Symptoms of Colitis

  • Severe pain in the abdominal region is one of the most common symptoms of colitis and you should immediately consult your doctor if this happens frequently without any reason.
  • It can also lead to cramping as the muscles do not get sufficient hydration. Make sure that you drink lots of liquids as this will help your body to avoid cramps.
  • Diarrhoea can be accompanied by blood in usual cases. When this condition is noticed, you should not take any chances and immediately approach your doctor for further examination.
  • Apart from that, some people experience frequent problems with dehydration, eye inflammation, fever and general fatigue.
  • Canker sores and joint swelling can also be some common symptoms of this condition.
  • When this leads to tenesmus, there is a frequent urge for a bowel movement and this can also be painful when you are suffering from colitis.
  • The symptoms vary slightly depending on the cause of colitis and you should always consult your doctor to know more about your condition.

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Causes of Colitis

There are many things that lead to this situation and it also depends on the overall health condition of the person. You can find some of the common causes of colitis mentioned below.

  • Virus and Parasite infection : In most cases, an infection of the colon due to food poisoning can lead to colitis. You should never neglect the issue in the early stages and always take good care of your diet. The infections can lead to diarrhoea and you may also notice blood in the stools when you are affected by this condition. In the same way, parasite infections can also lead to colitis and you should be careful about drinking water from public places.
  • Clostridium difficile : When you are taking high doses of antibiotics to treat any infection, it hampers the regular working of the digestive system. The bacteria in the colon that aids in digestion can get altered due to the effect of antibiotics and this leads to an abnormal growth of Clostridium bacteria that causes severe diarrhoea. However, the symptoms subside after the effect of antibiotics slow down and your doctor will be able to suggest the suitable dosage as per your health condition.
  • Narrowing of blood vessels : In some cases, the narrowing of blood vessels causes the colon to get inflamed and this often leads to colitis. The arteries will not be able to supply blood properly to the colon and this often leads to various complications. One of the common reasons for this condition is volvulus which occurs due to the twisting of the bowels. You can generally notice such issues during hernia and the colon can get stuck in this situation leading to reduced blood flow.
  • Ischemia : This is a condition where the lack of blood supply causes severe problems and even affects the bowel movements. When there is less blood flow in the colon region due to a drop in blood pressure, it can lead to colitis and cause fever and pain. Even the bowel movements will be painful due to blood in the stools. It is generally noticed in patients suffering from anaemia or dehydration.
  • Blood Clots : This can also move around in the body and reduce the flow of blood to the bowel. In some cases, irregular heartbeat problems can cause small clots which reduce the blood flow to the bowel region. The overall working of the intestine gets affected due to less blood flowing in the region. In rare cases, this can also lead to a stroke when the flow of blood is reduced in the brain region.
  • Chemical reaction : Due to the overreaction of the body to some medication, the blood flow to the colon can get affected and it can even get inflammation. In some cases, the lining of the colon gets damaged due to the harsh nature of certain chemicals and drugs. For this reason, you should always be careful about choosing over the counter medication and always take the suggestions of your doctor for any health problem.

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Diagnosis of Colitis

  • Physical examination of the rectum : There can be some tumours inside the rectum that can be the primary cause of colitis and this can only be determined by a physical examination. Even the stool sample will be analyzed for its consistency and any blood in the stools. After this is done, your doctor may prescribe suitable medical tests to further confirm the infection and proceed with the treatment.
  • Blood Tests : The blood test can ascertain the RBC count and WBC count in the body and this will help the doctors to analyze the problem. The platelets in the blood perform a very important function and they clot the blood thereby preventing excessive bleeding. Similarly, low levels of sodium and potassium in the body are analyzed to ascertain the cause of colitis.
  • Colonoscopy : if the above two methods fail to indicate the proper cause of colitis, your doctor may suggest you consider a colonoscopy. In this method, a fibre optic camera is inserted inside the anus and this provides a complete view of the colon region. While performing this, even biopsy can be done to diagnose the colon tissues.
  • CT Scan : When the doctors suspect some problem, they may even ask you to undergo a CT scan to determine the exact nature of the problem inside the colon region. This along with ultrasound helps them to diagnose the situation in the proper manner and it removes any guesswork. In this way, the diagnosis of colitis can be done by using any of these methods.

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Prevention of Colitis

It is important to note that colitis cannot usually be prevented. However, you can easily make some changes to your diet and prevent all the symptoms. It is a good idea to eat in small quantities and drink lots of fluids. Along with that, you can also use nutritional supplements after consulting your doctor and this should help you to recover from colitis. Also, remember that stress can increase the occurrence of ulcerative colitis as it can affect the overall performance of the digestive system. The body produces more acid when it is stressed and this leads to inflammation of the intestine. Along with all these steps, it is also necessary to exercise regularly as this helps your body in many ways and reduces the symptoms.

Treatment for Colitis

  • Antibiotics : if the issue is due to an infection in the body, some antibiotics can be prescribed after careful examination. In usual cases, bacterial infections like clostridium difficile need a proper dose of antibiotics to reduce the symptoms of colitis. In this way, the treatment of colitis depends on the cause and this is determined by the doctors after a thorough diagnosis of the issue.
  • Using IV fluids : Severe dehydration can also cause a lot of problems including colitis and the bowel needs to be rested using IV fluids. This ensures that the blood supply to the region is effectively restored and it helps the person to recover at a quick pace. This is the most common method used to treat patients suffering from general weakness due to colitis.
  • Medication : when the inflammation is more as in the case of ulcerative colitis, certain medication is prescribed to control the inflammation. Along with this, the doctors may even suppress the immune system by using some medication and this reduces the overreaction of the immune system.

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Complications of Colitis

  • You need to be aware of the different complications of colitis as they can be fatal in some cases.
  • The most common complication of ulcerative colitis is clotting of the blood and this can eventually lead to stroke and other issues.
  • In some cases, it can even make a hole in the colon which is known as gastrointestinal perforation.
  • It leads to arthritis in many cases as the bones tend to get thinner due to this condition.
  • Toxic megacolon is a major complication of colitis as this can even rupture the colon due to excessive swelling. It can usually be fatal and you need to get medical assistance as soon as this condition is diagnosed by the doctors.
  • In rare cases, it can lead to colorectal cancer and this is usually prevalent among people suffering from ulcerative colitis.
  • Canker sores and other skin disorders are usually noticed in people suffering from inflammation and the skin develops rashes.
  • Some people also face problems with eyes as they develop inflammation in the eyes and this also happens due to vitamin deficiency in the body.
  • The scarring of bile ducts due to colitis can lead to gallstones and other liver diseases.

Myths of Colitis

Myth #1: Most people believe that making dietary changes will resolve the problem completely. However, the fact is that it only helps to control the symptoms and ulcerative colitis cannot be cured by making dietary changes.

Myth #2: Ulcerative colitis is not deadly is what many people believe as they think that it affects only the lining of the intestine, unlike Crohn's disease. However, the inflammation can lead to other complications and it can also be fatal in some cases.

Myth #3: Most people believe that stress causes ulcerative colitis and this is completely wrong. While stress increases the symptoms and contributes indirectly to various health problems, it is not a direct contributor to the health condition.


There is no need to lose hope when you are diagnosed with colitis. All you need to do in this situation is to follow the advice of your doctor and stay away from things that trigger colitis. Make suitable dietary changes and go for a regular medical checkup to monitor your health condition. Also, remember that it is possible to control the inflammation by using certain medication and surgery is usually performed only as a last resort to cure the problem.

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Last updated on : 20-12-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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