Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
- Colitis facts
- What is colitis?
- What are the causes (types) of colitis?
- Infectious colitis
- Ischemic colitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Microscopic colitis
- Allergic colitis in infants
- What are the symptoms of colitis?
- When should I contact my doctor about colitis?
- How is colitis diagnosed?
- How is colitis treated?
- What is the prognosis for a patient with colitis?
- Patient Comments: Colitis - Describe Your Experience
- Patient Comments: Colitis - Treatments
- Patient Comments: Colitis - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Colitis - Diagnosis
- Patient Comments: Colitis - Type
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
- Colitis is inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. It may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea with or without blood. Fever may be present.
- There are numerous causes of colitis including infection, inflammatory bowel disease, ischemic, and microscopic colitis.
- Blood in the stool is never normal and should not be ignored.
- Depending upon the history and physical examination, further testing may be required to find the cause of colitis.
- Treatment of colitis often is supportive and is aimed at maintaining adequate hydration and pain control while a diagnosis is being pursued.
What is colitis?
Colitis is inflammation of the inner lining of the colon and can be associated with diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and blood in the stool. This inflammation may be due to a variety of reasons, including the following:
- loss of blood supply to the colon,
- inflammatory bowel disease, and
- invasion of the colon wall with lymphocytic white blood cells or collagen.
Anatomy of the colon
The colon, or large intestine, is a hollow, muscular tube that processes waste products of digestion from the small intestine, removes water and ultimately eliminates the remnants as feces (stool) through the anus. The colon is located within the abdominal cavity, the sac that contains the intestine.
The colon is surrounded by many layers of tissue. The innermost layer of the colon is the mucosa that comes into contact with the waste products of digestion. is The mucosa absorbs water and electrolytes back into the blood vessels that are located just below the surface in the submucosa. This is surrounded by a circular layer of muscles and then another outer layer of longitudinal muscles that run along the length of the colon. The muscles work together to help rhythmically squeeze liquid waste from the cecum through the entire length of the colon. Water is gradually removed, turning the waste into formed stool, so that it is excreted out of the anus in solid form.
The colon frames the organs within the peritoneum and its segments are named based on their location.
- The colon begins in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen, where the terminal ileum, the last part of the small intestine, attaches to the cecum, the first segment of the colon. The appendix is attached to the cecum.
- The ascending colon begins at the cecum and arises from the right lower abdomen to the right upper abdomen near the liver.
- The colon then makes a sharp left turn called the hepatic flexure (hepatic=liver), and is referred to as the transverse colon, as it makes its way to the left upper quadrant of the abdomen near the spleen.
- There is a sharp downward turn called the splenic flexure, and it is referred to as the descending colon as it runs from the left upper quadrant to the left lower quadrant of the abdomen.
- When it descends into the pelvis, it is referred to as the sigmoid colon.
- The last several centimeters of the colon are referred to as the rectum.
- The anus is the final portion of the colon.
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