A nagging stomachache, diarrhea and nausea are symptoms that can lead to a number of different diagnoses from food poisoning to the stomach flu. Those symptoms can also indicate Colitis, an inflammation of the colon (large intestine) that can be caused by an infection, poor blood supply, or an autoimmune reaction. Additional symptoms can include abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody stools and fever. Because these symptoms can often be associated with other medical conditions, here are ten things you might not know about colitis:
1. Colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's Disease are chronic conditions that can last from years to decades. There is no known cure for colitis, therefore the goal of treatment is to keep the condition in remission.
2. There are several different types of colitis. Infectious colitis occurs when disease causing bacteria are ingested and get into the intestines. Ischemic colitis occurs when the colon loses its normal blood supply and becomes inflamed. Diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking can trigger ischemic colitis. Ulcerative colitis is thought to be caused by over activity of the immune system and its symptoms include abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.
3. Colitis affects about 500,000 to 2 million people in the US, and affects men and women equally. Colitis typically begins during adolescence and early adulthood, however the condition can also begin during childhood or later in adulthood. The most common age range is between 15 and 40 years old.
4. In addition to a physical exam and a family history, tests to establish a diagnosis may include a colonoscopy with biopsy and barium enema. Other tests may be done depending on the symptoms.
5. Although the condition is found all over the world, colitis is most prevalent in the United States, England and Northern Europe. Interestingly, the incidence of colitis in developing countries is low.
6. Many colitis patients have been able to minimize their symptoms by avoiding certain foods like soft drinks, alcohol and caffeine, and limiting others such as spicy foods, dairy products and foods that are high in fat.
7. Colitis is not contagious. Although it can be caused by an infection that is contagious, a person cannot "catch" colitis from someone else.
8. Colitis is hereditary. A person is more likely to suffer from colitis if they have an immediate relative who suffers from colitis. Approximately 25% of people with ulcerative colitis have a first-degree relative with the disease.
9. Complications of colitis can involve other parts of the body. About 10% of patients develop arthritis and lower back pain. Colitis can also cause inflammation in the joints, skin, eyes and the liver.
10. Colitis cannot be cured; however it can be treated with medications such as antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs, and in some cases, surgery. Adequate hydration is a key element in the treatment of colitis and in some cases IV fluids are required.