Colitis

Definition

Colitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large intestine (colon).

Alternative Names

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Colitis can have many different causes, including:

See also:

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms, including:

  • How long you have had the symptoms
  • How severe your pain is
  • How often it occurs
  • How long it lasts
  • How often you have diarrhea
  • Whether you have been traveling

The health care provider can diagnose colitis by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum (flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) and evaluating specific areas of the colon. Biopsies taken during these tests may show changes related to inflammation.

Other studies that can identify colitis include:

Treatment

Treatment is directed at the cause of disease (infection, inflammation, lack of blood flow, or another cause).

See the conditions listed above for specific recommendations.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The prognosis varies with each disease. See particular conditions listed above.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain that does not get better
  • Blood in the stool or stools that look black
  • Diarrhea or vomiting that does not go away
  • Swollen (distended) abdomen

Prevention

Prevention depends upon the cause of colitis. See the specific condition.

visHeader

Ulcerative colitisLarge intestine

References

Reviewed By: George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
Review Date: October 16, 2011

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