Colitis

Definition

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

Causes

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

Causes of colitis include:

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You will also be asked questions about your symptoms, such as:

Your provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. During this test, a flexible tube is inserted through the rectum to examine the colon. You may have biopsies taken during this exam. Biopsies may show changes related to inflammation. This can help determine the cause of colitis.

Other studies that can identify colitis include:

Treatment

Your treatment will depend on the cause of the disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook depends on the cause of the problem.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact your provider if you have symptoms such as:

References

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.


Review Date: 7/1/2021
Reviewed 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.
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