Diseases & Conditions


ColitisCausesMedicationsPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Colitis?

Colitis is also known as inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. It causes the digestive tract to become inflamed. Colitis affects the inner lining of the colon and rectum along wide stretches of the bowel.

Causes of Colitides

While there is no true consensus as to what causes colitis there are some strong indicators.

  • There are some in the medical community who believe a bacteria or virus may cause ulcerative IBD. The immune system tries to defend against the bacteria or virus and this causes inflammation of the colon.
  • Individuals with parents or other relatives with colitis are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Ischemic colitis is caused by blockage of blood supply to the colon. This can be due to atherosclerosis or a twisting of the bowel.
  • Microscopic Colitis is caused by inflammation due to an increase of lymphocytes or collagen in the colon. This type of colitis can also be caused by chemicals introduced into the colon. This can happen with an enema.

Medications for Colitis

The anti-inflammatory medications that are prescribed for inflammatory bowel disease include the sulfasalazine;Azulfidine. Mesalamine drugs include Asacol and Rowasa while Colazal (balsalazide) and Dipentum (alsalazine) are also used. Corticosteroids are used for moderate or severe IBD. The immune suppressor medications include the azathioprines, Azasan and Imuran and the mercaptopurine, Purinethos. Cyclosporines, Gengraf, Neoral and Sandimmune are sometimes recommended. Another immune suppressor that may be dosed is Remicade (infliximab). The anti-diarrhea medications include the psyllium powder Metamucil and the methylcellulose treatment, Citrucel. Imodium (loperamide) is recommended for severe diarrhea. Tylenol is recommended to relieve pain but NSAIDS are not recommended as they can make the situation worse.

Prevention of Colitis

A high fiber diet can help prevent colon inflammation as it helps empty the colon and clean out toxins. A diet filled with vegetables will help maintain the proper fiber level. It is also advisable to stay away from spicy foods as that can aggravate ulcerative colitis. Do not take antibiotics as these can aggravate the colon. It is also important to eat at the same time every day as a hungry churning stomach can make matters worse.

Risk Factors for Colitis

There are several risk factors that predispose individuals to IBD:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease usually affects people in their 30s but can occur as late as the 50s and 60s.
  • Caucasians have the highest rate of colitis while those of a Jewish background have an even higher incidence of the disease.
  • Individuals who have a family history of colitis are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • There does seem to be a correlation between IBD and users of Accutane (Isotretinoin).

Symptoms of IBD

Some of the symptoms that indicate inflammatory bowel disease include rectal pain and bleeding, bloody diarrhea and cramping. Pain on the left side and weight loss are additional indicators of inflammatory bowel disease. Fulminant colitis can life-threatening and is characterized by extreme pain the whole length of the colon along with severe diarrhea which can lead to dehydration and even shock. Complications can include rupture of the colon or a critically distended colon.

Treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The purpose of IBD treatment is to decrease the inflammation in the colon. In some cases surgery works best and in others drug therapy can cure the disease. Anti-inflammatory medicines are the first means of treating colitis. Steroid enemas may be prescribed to help the rectum and lower portion of the colon. Immune system suppressors can be used to stop the body from fighting a virus or bacteria which causes inflammation. Nicotine patches have actually been known to provide some relief from the pain. Other medications that are used to treat the symptoms include pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medications and iron. The last ditch effort to correct colitis is surgery but this means removing the rectum and colon resulting in an ileostomy or an ileoanal anastomosis.

Types of Colitis

Inflammatory bowel diseases are classified by its etiology. There are six different types of colitis.

  • Autoimmune Colitis-this form of IBD consists of Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
  • Idiopathic IBD-this is a microscopic colitis that requires diagnosis by a microscope as the colon tissue appears normal to the naked eye. This type of inflammatory bowel disease includes Lymphocytic Colitis and Collagenous Colitis.
  • Iatrogenic Colitis included Diversion Colitis and Chemical Colitis.
  • Vascular disease can produce Ischemic Colitis.
  • Infection leads to Infectious Colitis.
  • Unclassified Colitis included Indeterminate Colitis and Atypical Colitis. These colitides do not conform to any typical form of colitis. Fulminant IBD is a colitis that quickly becomes very severe.