Different Forms of Colitis


Colitis is defined as an inflammation of the large intestine. There are several types of colitis including Ulcerative colitis, Pseudomembranous colitis, and Ischemic colitis. Colitis can be acute or chronic and ranges from mild to severe.

Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is the most common type of colitis. While the direct cause of Ulcerative colitis is still unknown, the disease is chronic and tends to run in families. In Ulcerative colitis, the immune system overreacts and mistakenly attacks helpful bacteria in the large intestine (colon) and rectum. The body's mistaken immune response causes ulcers that affect the innermost lining of the large intestine and the rectum.

Ulcerative colitis is often classified into subcategories depending on the location of the disease. These subcategories include Ulcerative proctitis (inflammation limited to the rectal area), Proctosigmoiditis (inflammation in the rectum and sigmoid colon), Left-sided colitis (inflammation in the rectum and the sigmoid and descending colon), Pancolitis (inflammation in the entire colon), and Acute severe ulcerative colitis (inflammation involves the entire colon and is accompanied by fever).

Symptoms of Ulcerative colitis include, but are not limited to, pain in the abdomen, diarrhea (with or without blood), bloating and cramps in the abdomen, weight loss, fatigue, and the inability to defecate despite urgency. Although rare, mouth and skin sores may also appear. These symptoms are chronic and often intensify as the disease progresses. Ulcerative colitis can range from mild and irritating to debilitating and, in severe cases, even life-threatening.

Pseudomembranous colitis is an acute inflammation of the colon that manifests when an abundance of a certain bacteria proliferate. The most common bacteria that causes Pseudomembranous colitis is Clostridium difficile (C. Diff). A strong course of antibiotic therapy can cause C. Diff by killing healthy bacteria and allowing C. Diff. to grow quickly. Symptoms include watery or bloody diarrhea, dehydration, fever, and stomach pain.

Ischemic colitis occurs when blood flow to your colon is limited or partially obstructed. Blood clots or a build-up of fatty deposits are usually the culprits. Often times, an underlying condition causes Ischemic colitis; such as, diabetes, heart failure, vasculitis, colon cancer, an obstruction, and even dehydration. Infections can also cause Ischemic colitis. Bloody diarrhea and stomach pain either in the left or right side are the main symptoms of ischemic colitis although other symptoms may materialize such as constipation, low blood pressure, and/or hardening of the arteries.

It is imperative to get a proper diagnosis of colitis. Diagnostic tools include blood tests, colonoscopy, stool samples, X-rays, CT scan, flexible sigmoidoscopy, computerized tomography (CT) enterography, and magnetic resonance (MR) enterography. Treatment usually involves anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressant, anti-diarrheal and/or pain medications, antibiotics, iron supplements, and, in severe cases, surgery. Home-care includes lifestyle changes to limit flare-ups of colitis. Keeping a food journal to note which foods contribute to flare-ups, talking to a doctor about certain supplements that have shown some promise in helping symptoms, and limiting stress with exercise and meditation can all aid in keeping flare-ups of colitis at bay.

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