Symptoms of Colitis, Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment
Colitis is a name for inflammation of the colon, one of the vital organs in the digestive system. There can be many different causes of colitis, a subject that we will come to later. Colitis is not an uncommon disease and it can be treated, but it is unpleasant and causes great discomfort. In the following article we will look at the causes of colitis, the symptoms that you should take note of, and how best to diagnose and treat the disease. We will also talk about home treatment and the dietary regime that sufferers should adhere to. Let’s start by looking at the tell tale signs – the symptoms of colitis.
Before we look at some of the main colitis symptoms it is important to know that there are different types of colitis. However, the main symptoms listed below will be present in all cases. Here are the major symptoms associated with colitis:
- Blood in stools is a possible but not certain symptom; it should be investigated in any case as it is not normal.
- A constant urge to have a bowel movement – known as Tenesmus – is a common symptom.
- Abdominal pain that leads to diarrhoea and then fades away.
- Fever and other signs of infection.
- Permanent pain in the abdomen.
All the above can be symptomatic of colitis, but they may also indicate a number of other conditions. Make sure you see a doctor if you are suffering from any of the above.
What Is Colitis?
As we have mentioned colitis is another name for inflammation of the colon. The colon is an important organ that is involved in storing waste matter for expulsion. The colon has several parts and it is the lining – the mucosa – that is infected by colitis. This is the area that is in direct contact with the waste matter. The colon is part of the digestive system and when inflamed is not able to operate correctly. This is why colitis is a serious condition that needs urgent treatment.
There are many possible colitis causes, and they are associated with different types of the disease. We will look at them under separate headings to make things easier:
Infectious colitis is a type of colon inflammation caused by infection. This can be thanks to viruses or bacteria such as those that cause food poisoning. Common among them are E.Coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Campylobacter. Sometimes it is caused by parasites that are ingested through drinking infected water. Pseudomembranous colitis is a peculiar strain of the disease that is found in patients taking antibiotics, which allow for a build up of certain bacteria in the colon.
Like all organs in the body the colon needs a blood supply to perform. If the blood supply is restricted, say by narrowed arteries, the colon can become inflamed. There are many reasons why blood supply could be affected, and if this is the cause it is known as Ischemic colitis. Correct diagnosis is important as an affected blood supply can be symptomatic of many serious illnesses.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
This term covers two types of disease, Crohns Disease and ulcerative colitis, both of which are inflammations of the bowel and other parts o the digestive system. The latter is a breakdown of the immune system and can be very dangerous.
As the symptoms of colitis can be similar to many other diseases a doctor will begin by looking at the history of the patient. The doctor will be interested in the length of time the patient has suffered the symptoms, and how long the pain lasts for. They will also be interested in the frequency of the symptoms. The doctor will want to know if the patient has been travelling recently, whether they are taking any drugs and aspects of their lifestyle that may be indicative of colitis. There will also be a rectal examination and blood tests that will be analysed in a laboratory. Stool samples and a colonoscopy are also used to diagnose colitis.
Treatment for colitis takes many forms, so let’s cover them individually:
Self-Care at Home
Colitis is not a self care issue; the symptoms can be indicative of many serious illnesses- not only colitis – so it is vital that you seek appropriate medical help straight away.
Medical treatment depends entirely upon the type of colitis, as follows:
- Infections: most viral infections resolve themselves quite quickly, with necessary fluids and no need for antibiotics. Those that do require medicine are easily treatable.
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Crohns Disease and ulcerative colitis are treated with multiple methods. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressants and – in the worst cases – surgery are options.
- Ischemic colitis: by keeping the fluid levels up this sort of colitis is usually successfully treated; otherwise, surgery may be required.
The doctor may also seek to treat the diarrhoea by putting the patient on a fluid diet for 24 hours.
Surgery may be carried out in some cases, especially when the cause is ulcerative colitis. In this case the removal of the colon is the cure for the disease. Sometimes surgery may be used to remove the diseased parts of the colon. However, modern practices prefer to avoid surgery if at all possible.
Other methods of therapy may be used, including the following:
- A clear fluid diet may be used to rest the colon.
- Hydration may be implemented to keep the patients fluid levels up.
- IV fluids may be administered in severe cases
What Foods To Avoid With Colitis?
As colitis is an inflamed colon you need to avoid the foods that will irritate it. Avoid all grain, and foods with grain in, and try and keep to soft and mainly liquid foods. You can eat rice and pasta, so concentrate on those. More than anything, see your doctor for an urgent diagnosis.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand the symptoms and causes of colitis, and what you need to do to get a diagnosis and the correct treatment.