Learn About Colitis

What is the definition of Colitis?

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

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What are the causes of Colitis?

Most of the time, 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 (now called Clostridiodes difficile)
What are the symptoms of 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
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What are the current treatments for Colitis?

Your treatment will depend on the cause of the disease.

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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 of 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?

Contact 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
Ulcerative colitis
Large intestine (colon)
Crohn disease - X-ray
Inflammatory bowel disease
What are the latest Colitis Clinical Trials?
Fecal Microbiota Transplantation in Refractory Clostridium Difficile Colitis
Summary: It has been shown that restoration of the normal makeup of the bowel bacterial population is the most effective way to treat recurrent colitis due to Clostridium difficile. Restoration of the normal bowel bacterial population is best done by transplanting stool from a healthy donor. The investigators wish to transplant stool from healthy donors to treat recurrent C. difficile colitis by incorporat...
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The CROCO Study: CROhn's Disease COhort Study
Summary: The investigators propose to create a prospective Crohn Disease cohort, where patients receiving the most up-to-date therapies with a treat-to-target strategy, will be closely followed to characterize the progression of Crohn Disease by measuring the Lémann Index over time. The goal of the CROCO Study - Crohn's Disease Cohort Study is to promote a greater understanding of the long-term evolution o...
What are the Latest Advances for Colitis?
Surgical strategies for intestinal Crohn's disease.
Summary: Surgical strategies for intestinal Crohn's disease.
Efficacy of an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet in the Treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: A Narrative Review.
Summary: Efficacy of an Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diet in the Treatment of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth: A Narrative Review.
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Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells in the pathogenesis and regenerative therapy of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Summary: Mesenchymal stem/stromal cells in the pathogenesis and regenerative therapy of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: July 01, 2021
Published By: Michael M. Phillips, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Ananthakrishnan AN, Regueiro MD. Management of inflammatory bowel diseases. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 116.

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

Pardi DS, Cotter TG. Other diseases of the colon. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 128.