What is it?
Colitis (ko-li-tis) is an irritation of the colon, which is also called the bowel or large intestine (in-tes-tin). The colon is a 5 to 6 foot long muscular tube inside your abdomen (belly) where stool is formed. The colon runs from your small intestine to your anus (rear end). Colitis causes inflammation (redness, pain, and swelling) and ulcers (sores) in the top layers of the lining of the colon. Colitis occurs most often in people 15 to 40 years old, but children and older people can also get colitis.
- It is not known what causes colitis. But it may be caused by a problem in the immune (ih-mewn) system. This system is the part of your body that fights infection. Scientists do not know if the problems with the immune system cause the colitis. Or, the colitis may cause the problems with the immune system. Germs called bacteria (bak-teer-e-uh) or viruses may also cause colitis.
- Colitis is not caused by stress. Stress and how you deal with it may cause you to have a relapse of colitis or make the symptoms worse. Having a family history of colitis may make it more likely for you to have this illness.
Signs and Symptoms:
The signs and symptoms of colitis may come and go any time. The inflammation kills cells lining the colon and causes the colon to empty, often resulting in diarrhea. Ulcers are formed where the cells were killed. The ulcers bleed, putting blood, pus, and mucous into your stool. You may also have one or more of the following signs and symptoms.
- Abdominal pain or bloating.
- Fatigue (tiredness).
- Increased gas.
- Loss of appetite (not wanting to eat).
- Weight loss without trying.
- Stop smoking. Use a nicotine patch to stop smoking if you have colitis. It is, however, possible that the nicotine in cigarettes may help to decrease colitis symptoms.
Blood and BM samples may be tested to learn what is causing the colitis. A colon biopsy may be taken during either a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy procedure and sent to a lab. The results will help caregivers learn more about your colitis. Medicine, rest, or a special diet may be used to treat your colitis. You may need to go into the hospital for further tests and treatment. There is no cure for colitis.
- Talk with your caregiver about what and how often you should eat. Some foods upset the intestines, like highly seasoned foods or foods made with milk. Caregivers may help you change your diet to decrease your symptoms.
- You may need to eat 5 or 6 small meals instead of 3 large ones.
- Avoid spicy foods, chocolate, or nuts.
- Do not eat raw vegetables and fruit.
- It can take time getting used to a new diet. Special cookbooks may help the cook in the family find new recipes.
Herbs and Supplements:
Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including the use of acupuncture and herbs, may be helpful for colitis.
- Hypnosis may be helpful for colitis.
- Relaxation therapy, biofeedback, and meditation may be helpful for colitis.
Screening Tests: There is a higher risk of colon cancer if you have had colitis longer than 10 years. Ask your caregiver how often you should have a colonoscopy procedure to be sure you do not have colon cancer. You may need a bone density test if you have been on immunosuppressant medicine for a long time. This medicine group increases the risk of osteoporosis, also known as "brittle bone disease."
Other ways of treating your symptoms : Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.
Talk to your caregiver if:
- You would like medicine to treat colitis.
- Your symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
- You have questions about what you have read in this document.
SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:
- Your BMs are black or have blood in them.
- You have bad abdominal pain.
You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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Last Updated: 1/4/2011