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What is Pancolitis?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pancolitis is a type of inflammatory disorder that affects the entire inner lining of the colon. It usually appears as a less severe condition called ulcerative colitis goes untreated and spreads throughout the large intestine. The exact causes of pancolitis are unknown, though doctors believe that autoimmune disorders and genetic predispositions may play a role in its development. A person with pancolitis is likely to experience abdominal pain, frequent episodes of bloody diarrhea, and chronic fatigue. A doctor will usually first try to treat the condition with anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers, though surgery is often necessary to prevent long-term health problems.

Ulcerative colitis typically affects the inner lining of the rectum and lowest sections of the colon. In time, however, irritation can extend along the length of the colon, resulting in pancolitis. It is often impossible to identify the cause of ulcerative colitis, though many people with the condition have a familial history of inflammatory bowel disorders. The condition is most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, though colitis can appear in people of any age.

An individual who develops pancolitis usually suffers from severe abdominal pain and cramps. Chronic bloody diarrhea is common, which can lead to dehydration or anemia in some patients. A person may also experience frequent fevers, fatigue, nausea, and weight loss. Pancolitis can result in colon cancer if it goes untreated. In order to prevent long-term problems, it is essential to seek medical evaluation when an individual notices any or all of the symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

A doctor can perform a physical examination and blood tests to diagnose pancolitis. The physical exam usually includes a colonoscopy, a procedure in which a small camera and light are inserted into the rectum to check for signs of irritation and inflammation. A physician may also decide to take a biopsy of colon tissue for laboratory analysis. Once ulcerative colitis is diagnosed, the doctor can discuss treatment options with the patient.

Many patients respond well to nonsurgical treatment, including prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and dietary changes. Certain foods, including dairy products and overly spicy or greasy meals, can worsen colitis symptoms. Doctors usually recommend that patients avoid such foods, drink plenty of liquid, and take multivitamins to ensure digestive tract health. Since stress can also trigger symptoms, a doctor may recommend relaxing exercises or refer a patient to a psychologist to better manage stressful situations.

Severe pancolitis usually requires surgical intervention. A surgeon can remove sections of scarred or severely damaged tissue, and suture healthy tissue back together. In some cases, it is necessary to remove the entire colon and rectum in a procedure called a proctocolectomy. The procedure entails connecting the small intestine and anus with an artificial tube that acts as a replacement colon. Following surgery, ongoing counseling and medical checkups can ensure that patients recover from their symptoms and enjoy normal lifestyles.

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