Colitis is a disease that is caused by inflammation of the large intestine. It usually affects the colon and the rectum. Scientists do not know what causes colitis, but they suspect that it results from the immune system overreacting to healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. It may also be caused by other types of bacteria or viruses. Treatment varies according to the severity of the patient's colitis, but may include medication, nutritional supplements, or changes in the diet.
The colon of the body is responsible for collecting and warehousing the waste that is produced by digestion. This muscular tube pushes waste toward the anus so that it can be eliminated from the body. On its journey toward the anus, the undigested food mixes with bacteria and mucus that lives inside the colon. This mixtures solidifies into feces. When the colon or large intestine becomes inflamed, problems can occur with the body.
Symptoms of colitis may include cramping, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, fever, rectal bleeding, and anemia. Some people may even experience joint pain, skin rash, eye problems, or liver disease. People may experience different symptoms of colitis, ranging from mild to severe. These symptoms may pass into remission for several years and reappear at a later date.
Mild cases of the disease can be treated with anti-diarrhea medication that can be purchased over the counter at the local drugstore. A person can also change the way he or she eats in order to control colitis. Corticosteroids and aminosalicylates, two prescription medications, can also be administered to patients in order to control or eliminate symptoms of colitis. People with moderate to severe cases of the disease will also be prescribed these two medications, but such patients need higher doses in order for the medication to be effective.
Medicines that suppress the body's immune system, called immunomodulator medicines, may be prescribed to colitis patients when aminosalicylates prove to be ineffective. This particular type of medication controls inflammation of the large intestine. A medicine called infliximab is sometimes used for severe cases of this disease in order to heal the large intestine's lining as well.
When the patient's condition has improved, he or she visits the doctor for follow-up appointments about every six months. Patients whose conditions have not stabilized will be required to visit the physician more frequently. Those who experience symptoms that worsen, including fever and anemia, will require hospitalization. In some serious cases, the doctor will recommend that the patient's colon is surgically removed.