Condition 101 About Colitis

What is the definition of Colitis?

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

What are the causes for Colitis?

Most of the times, the cause of colitis is not known.

Causes of colitis include:

  • Infections caused by a virus or a parasite
  • Food poisoning due to bacteria
  • Crohn disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Lack of blood flow (ischemic colitis)
  • Past radiation to the large bowel (radiation colitis and strictures)
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns
  • Pseudomembranous colitis caused by Clostridium difficile infection

What are the symptoms for Colitis?

Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating that may be constant or come and go
  • Bloody stools 
  • Constant urge to have a bowel movement (tenesmus)
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

What are the current treatments for Colitis?

Your treatment will depend on the cause of the disease.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Colitis?

The outlook depends on the cause of the problem.

  • Crohn disease is a chronic condition which has no cure but can be controlled.
  • Ulcerative colitis can usually be controlled with medicines. If not controlled, it can be cured by surgically removing the colon.
  • Viral, bacterial and parasitic colitis can be cured with appropriate medicines.
  • Pseudomembranous colitis can usually be cured with appropriate antibiotics.

What are the possible complications for Colitis?

Complications may include:

  • Bleeding with bowel movements
  • Perforation of the colon
  • Toxic megacolon
  • Sore (ulceration)

When should I contact a medical professional for Colitis?

Call your 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 abdomen


Lichtenstein GR. Inflammatory bowel disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 132.

Osterman MT, Lichtenstein GR. Ulcerative colitis. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 116.

Wald A. Other diseases of the colon and rectum. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 128.

Latest Advances On Colitis

  • Condition: Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) in Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Journal: Acta gastro-enterologica Belgica
  • Treatment Used: Pharmacological Prophylaxis
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This review discusses the use of pharmacological prophylaxis in the prevention of venous thromboembolism (clot; VTE) in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
  • Condition: Hemorrhagic Enteritis Associated with Epstein-Barr Virus Reactivation
  • Journal: Acta gastro-enterologica Belgica
  • Treatment Used: Interferon-Alpha-2a
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
The study researched the use of interferon-alpha-2a as a salvage treatment for hemorrhagic enteritis associated with Epstein-Barr Virus reactivation.

Clinical Trials For Colitis

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Not yet recruiting
  • Intervention Type: Diagnostic Test
  • Participants: 160
  • Start Date: June 2021
The Validity of Novel Non-invasive Inflammatory Markers for Monitoring of Patients With Ulcerative Colitis