What Is Colitis?
Colitis is an inflammation of the colon. Symptoms include painful stomach cramps, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. You may only become aware that you have colitis by a sudden unexpected flare-up of symptoms. Ischemic colitis can be caused by the use of certain prescription drugs such as blood pressure drugs, estrogen replacement medications or even migraine medications. It may also be caused by bacterial infections, diabetes, inflamed blood vessels, blood clots or arteriosclerosis.
If you experience rectal bleeding that does not stop, you should seek emergency treatment at a medical facility or hospital. Diagnosis will most probably involve a CAT scan and a colonoscopy procedure. These procedures, followed by a biopsy of the colon will determine what form of colitis you have. Ischemic colitis occurs when the blood flow through the arteries to the colon is blocked. Ischemic Colitis is downright dangerous and can have fatal consequences if left unattended. First some of your intestinal tissue dies, and then emergency surgery will be needed to save your life.
Colon inflammation may not cause pain, but does produce cramps, diarrhea, rectal bleeding and vomiting. Mild symptoms of colitis may respond to antidiarrheal medicines and also to changes in diet.
Moderate to severe symptoms usually require a high dose of steroids to control inflammation. Long term use of steroids can cause side effects like increased risk of infection and even osteoporosis. Immunomodulators, like azathioprine or 6-mercaptopurine, may be introduced to avoid complications from the steroids and suppress the body’s immune system to prevent inflammation.
Antibiotics will also be used to treat severe symptoms, although they can make ulcerative colitis worse and should only be used under the supervision of a doctor. Once the symptoms are under control, your doctor may require you to continue taking aminosalicylates, like sulfasalazine or mesalamine, which may also have been given to reduce or stop symptoms along with corticosteroids. The aminosalicylates will not only keep the disease in remission, but also relieve inflammation in the intestines.
Treatment for Colitis
Once diagnosed, treatment for colitis depends on the severity and cause of the disease. The goals of treatment are:
- To control and relieve symptoms
- To treat complications of anemia or infection
- To prevent or delay new attacks
Medicines may be prescribed to control or relieve symptoms, and may be able to keep the disease in remission and avoid future flare-ups. Treatment may also include giving the patient nutritional supplements. Herbalists will usually recommend as many as 2 to 3 dosages per day of aloe vera in the form of a smoothie to coat the lining of the bowels and relieve inflammation.
In addition to medicine, adequate hydration and diet are key elements in the treatment for colitis. At the hospital, initial treatment includes replacing fluids and electrolytes which were lost due to severe diarrhea. A clear fluid diet allows the colon to rest. The fluid is absorbed in the stomach and none is passed to the colon to be processed as stool.
Ongoing treatment is usually necessary for many forms of colitis, and doctors will probably suggest follow-up visits every 6 months. You may also have to undergo laboratory tests every two to three months.
Some people do have precancerous changes in their colon; and there are those among them who may opt for surgery to have their colon removed to eliminate the risk of colon cancer. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the illness and lack of response to medicines, since removal of the colon (large intestine) cures ulcerative colitis.
The good news for ischemic colitis sufferers though, is that if it is taken care of in time, surgery will not be necessary. Follow-up visits may not even be necessary. Can it be cured? The solution is to get to the root of the problem - the colon inflammation or any contributing factor. The most effective method to avoid recurrences is to alter your foods to ensure that your pH has a good alkaline balance. Consult a dietitian or nutritionist and work closely with your doctor to maintain a good blood pressure level.