What is Chronic Colitis?

Laura Metz

Chronic colitis is the inflammation of the colon that continues for a long period of time. Although there are many different causes, almost everyone with chronic colitis will experience frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and abdominal pains. The condition is diagnosed through a medical history, physical exam, and colonoscopy. Symptoms can typically be managed through diet and medicine.

Ulcerative colitis is one form of chronic colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is one form of chronic colitis.

Doctors have identified 16 different types of chronic colitis based on the different causes of the disease. Colitis can be caused by many problems, including autoimmune disease and infection. Many cases of colitis come from unknown causes, although some researchers believe that the disease is linked to genetics and stress. The most common types of chronic colitis are Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Chronic colitis symptoms may include abdominal cramps.
Chronic colitis symptoms may include abdominal cramps.

Chronic colitis is characterized by abdominal pains in the left, middle, or lower parts of the abdomen, frequent bowel movements, and diarrhea. Patients may have as many as 20 bowel movements a day, and the stools may contain mucus, blood, or pus. The abdominal pains are typically somewhat relieved when a stool has been passed. Other possible symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, colon spasms, and nausea.

The first step in diagnosis is a medical history and physical exam. Since many of these symptoms are the same as those found both in temporary gastrological illnesses and in colon cancer, doctors will ask about the time of onset, duration, and frequency of symptoms. The doctor will then probably order a colonoscopy to look for redness, ulcers, or bleeding in the colon. He or she may also order blood work or lab tests, such as a stool culture, to determine potential complications and possible causes.

There is no known cure for chronic colitis, but there are many techniques to help patients manage their colitis. Patients should drink eight to ten glasses of clear liquid daily to prevent dehydration, especially when experiencing diarrhea. Fried foods, raw foods, and cold foods can all aggravate the symptoms of chronic colitis. Patients should avoid these foods and replace them with a low-fiber diet.

For many patients, doctors prescribe an intestinal anti-inflammatory drug, such as mesalamine, to manage colitis. Although the medicine can be very helpful, it must be monitored carefully because it can produce side effects similar to the symptoms of colitis. In very severe cases, the patient may have to undergo surgery to remove the infected part of the intestines.

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