Colitis (also called ulcerative colitis) is an acute or chronic inflammation of the membrane lining the colon (your large intestine or bowels) producing sores, called ulcers, in the top layers of the lining of the large intestine. It can be identified using flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. In both of these tests, a flexible tube is inserted in the rectum, and specific areas of the colon are evaluated. Colitis may be acute (lasting only a few days) or chronic (lasting weeks or even many months) and may result in bleeding, ulceration, perforation (a hole in the colon). It is best managed when its cause has been determine and specific treatment can be applied.
Symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal bloating, increased intestinal gas, and bloody stools and can return in up to 20% of people with this disorder, thus requiring treatment with antibiotics to be repeated. Colitis can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other intestinal disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn disease (also called Crohn's disease). The two most common symptoms are abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. About half of the people diagnosed with the disease have mild symptoms. It is not caused by emotional distress or sensitivity to certain foods or food products, but these factors may trigger symptoms in some people. The stress of living with colitis may also contribute to a worsening of symptoms. Some people have remissions, periods when the symptoms go away, that last for months or even years. Occasionally, symptoms are severe enough that a person must be hospitalized.
Treatment for colitis depends on the severity of the disease and usually starts with prescription anti-inflammatory medications, such as mesalamine (Rowasa or Canasa) and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), in order to reduce swelling. Treatment may also include taking nutritional supplements to restore normal growth and sexual development in children and teens. Therapy is directed at the underlying cause of the disease, whether it be infection, inflammation, lack of blood flow, or other causes. The aim is to control the inflammation, reduce symptoms, and replace any lost fluids and nutrients.
Treatment varies depending upon which parts of the colon are involved. Each person experiences colitis differently, so treatment is adjusted for each individual. Sometimes the doctor will recommend removing the colon if medical treatment fails or if the side effects of corticosteroids or other drugs threaten the patients health. If you are already under treatment for inflammatory bowel disease or irritable bowel syndrome, contact your doctor if you experience any prolonged changes or pass blood in your stools.
Also see your doctor if you have any of these conditions: Diarrhea lasting more than 3 days, Severe abdominal or rectal pain, Signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, anxiety or restlessness, excessive thirst, little or no urination, Frequent loose bowel movements during pregnancy, More than 1 other person who shared food with you who has symptoms like yours, for example abdominal pain, fever, and diarrhea, Blood or mucus in your stool, Progressively looser bowel movements, Fever with diarrhea, Pain moving from the area around your belly to your right lower abdomen.
You should go to the hospital's Emergency Department for any of these reasons: Abdominal pain with fever, Severe acute attacks in people diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, Signs of dehydration in an old or very young person, Progression or appearance of new symptoms over a few hours, Blood in your stool along with fever and loose bowel movements. Your doctor will consider the possible causes of your colitis and any complications that need urgent treatment.
Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine that can be caused by many different disease processes and is generally found in younger people, before they reach age 30. Up to 2 million people in the US are estimated to have either ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease. Jewish people tend to have more incidence of of the disease than non-Jewish people. It affects men and women equally and appears to run in families, with reports of up to 20 percent of people with the disease having a family member or relative with ulcerative colitis or Crohns disease. Along with people of Jewish descent a higher incidence is also seen in Whites. People with this disease usually have abnormalities of the immune system, but doctors do not know whether these abnormalities are a cause or a result of having the disease.
Many tests are used to diagnose the disease. A colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy are the most accurate methods for making a diagnosis and ruling out other possible conditions, such as Crohns disease, diverticular disease, or cancer. Sometimes x rays using a barium enema or CT scans are also used to diagnose colitis or its complications. There's no known cure for it, but therapies are available that may dramatically reduce the signs and symptoms and even bring about a long-term remission. Your doctor will decide which tests you need based on your symptoms, medical history, and clinical findings.