What are the Symptoms of Colitis?

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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2018
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Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease in which the colon or large intestine becomes inflamed. Symptoms of colitis include abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, and the sudden urge to have a bowel movement. Some sufferers may experience fever and weight loss as well. It is not known what causes colitis, but scientists believe that the disease occurs when the immune system attacks normal bacteria within the body.

If a doctor suspects that a patient has colitis, the doctor will conduct a series of tests on the patient. Blood and stool samples are two tests that may initially be used to rule out an infection or the presence of parasites. Two other tests that may be used are a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Both tests use a scope to view the large intestine.

Other methods to determine if a patient has colitis are a barium enema, abdominal x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Once a doctor diagnoses a patient with colitis, a treatment plan is devised. Treatment can be as simple as diet change or as complex as surgery for more severe cases.

Colitis cannot be cured; it can only be managed. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms of colitis or encourage the disease to go into remission. Some patients with mild forms of the disease can simply take over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medicine to control the symptoms of colitis.


If prescription medication is needed, doctors commonly prescribe corticosteroids to treat inflammation of the colon. Aminosalicylates are medicines used to keep the disease in remission. Patients with severe colitis need medicines that prevent inflammation by suppressing the body's immune system. These medicines are called immunomodulator medicines. Infliximab is another type of medicine that doctors prescribe when the disease does not respond to corticosteroids.

As a last resort, a person with symptoms of colitis may need to undergo surgery to remove the colon. Patients who are at a higher risk for colon cancer and patients whose colitis is not managed by medication often need to have this particular type of operation. Other patients who have toxic megacolon, a condition where the colon grows larger, must also undergo surgery. During the procedure, the patient's colon and rectum are removed.

Patients with colitis usually experience periods of remission alternating with periods of active symptoms. It's important that patients with colitis receive medical treatment to deal with colitis symptoms. This is because untreated colitis can lead to colon cancer and other serious complications.



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