Table of Contents
Colitis disease definition
INFLAMMATION of the COLON. Colitis can be acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term). Various circumstances can cause acute colitis.Among them are INFECTION, radiation, and ischemia. Chronic colitis is usually a form of INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD), an autoimmune disorder. The symptoms of colitis are abdominal discomfort, cramping, and DIARRHEA.
The doctor makes the diagnosis primarily on the basis of symptoms; BLOOD tests often can confirm the presence of pathogens. Treatment may include medications that target the underlying cause of the inflammation or infection as well as antidiarrheal medications.
Bacterial and protozoan infections of the colon are common. People who are already debilitated such as the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune function face increased risk for complications, such as DEHYDRATION, that can be fatal. Fecal cultures can identify the causative agent, which then determines the appropriate treatment.
Numerous BACTERIA cause bacterial infections of the colon, which often are FOODBORNE ILLNESSES. Those most frequently detected include Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes. Treatment for bacterial colitis is the appropriate antibiotic medication, which helps contain symptoms within 48 to 72 hours and eliminate the infection in about 10 to 14 days. Bacterial infections, notably LISTERIOSIS, can be especially dangerous for pregnant women.
Parasitic infections can occur from drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated foods, and through contact with someone who has such an infection. It is possible to have a protozoan or parasitic infection and show no symptoms. The most common infective protozoan is Entamoeba histolytica, which causes AMEBIASIS (also called amoebic dysentery). Treatment is a course of antiparasitic medication such as metronidazole. Recovery is usually complete with appropriate treatment. Other protozoan infections include GIARDIASIS, CYCLOSPORIASIS, and CRYPTOSPORIDIASIS.
RADIATION THERAPY to treat cancers, such as PROSTATE CANCER, in the lower abdominal region (pelvic area) can damage the colon, causing symptoms such as diarrhea and cramping. Symptoms typically resolve as the damaged tissue regenerates. Treatment targets symptom relief. Radiation colitis typically resolves when radiation therapy ends.
Impaired blood flow to the intestinal tract, such as might occur with serious ATHEROSCLEROSIS, can impede intestinal function. Ischemic colitis is most common in people age 70 and older. Treatment focuses on restoring adequate circulation and minimizing symptoms, such as diarrhea, that can result in nutritional deficits and dehydration.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
Chronic inflammation of the colon takes the form of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, collectively called IBD. Crohn’s disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract but most commonly involves the terminal ileum and the ascending colon. Ulcerative colitis can affect the whole colon but usually starts in the rectum and left colon. IBD is an autoimmune disorder in which the IMMUNE SYSTEM attacks sections of the intestinal tract and destroys the mucus lining.
This creates ulcerations that cause PAIN, diarrhea, and MALABSORPTION. Treatment for inflammatory colitis typically includes CORTICOSTEROID MEDICATIONS and sometimes immunosuppressive agents such as methotrexate or cyclosporine to suppress the IMMUNE RESPONSE. IBD is a serious and lifelong disorder that requires continuous management through medications and diet.
See also ANTIBIOTIC MEDICATIONS; AUTOIMMUNE DISORDERS; ENTERITIS; FOOD SAFETY; GASTRITIS; GASTROENTERITIS; INCUBATION PERIOD; IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS); NUTRITIONAL NEEDS; NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS; PATHOGEN; PERSONAL HYGIENE; PROCTITIS; VIRUS; WATER SAFETY.