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.
In this Article
- What is colitis?
- What are the causes (types) of colitis?
- Infectious colitis
- Ischemic colitis
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Microscopic colitis
- 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?
- Colitis At A Glance
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
What are the symptoms of colitis?
Inflammation of the colon causes the muscle layers to go into intermittent spasm and cause cramp-like pain, which is pain that comes and goes. The pain usually is in the lower abdomen. Since the muscles fail to contract in a normal pattern and the colonic contents move through the colon rapidly, there is little opportunity for water to be reabsorbed. This leads to watery diarrhea. If the lining of the colon is inflamed and breaks down, bleeding may occur.
With colitis, particularly colitis involving the distal colon (rectum and sigmoid colon), the pain often crescendos and precedes a diarrheal bowel movement. After the bowel movement, the pain may relent but then returns with the next episode of pain.
Depending upon the cause of the colitis, fever, and possibly malaise may or may not be present.
When should I contact my doctor about colitis?
Diarrhea is a common symptom, is usually self limited, and usually requires only supportive care, rest, and clear fluids until it resolves. If the diarrhea persists, diagnosis of the cause and further care may be needed.
- Blood in the stool is never normal and should always be evaluated. The
blood may be
from a hemorrhoid bleed,
however, other serious causes of bleeding need to be investigated. Colitis is not the
only cause of rectal bleeding,
other cause include
polyps, anal fissures,
- Chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and if severe enough, dehydration may require treatment with fluids. The symptoms of dehydration may include:
- High fever associated with diarrhea may be a warning sign that an
infection is present that may need evaluation by a health care practitioner and treatment.
- Abdominal pain is not normal, and while diarrhea may be associated with mild cramps, if a person has moderate or severe abdominal pain he or she should seek medical care.
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