Colitis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Page content

Colitis Signs and Symptoms

Colitis is inflammation of the colon. This defining characteristic of the condition can be accompanied by a range of other signs and symptoms. Symptoms of colitis may include the following, depending on the cause and severity of the disease:

  • Intense pain and tenderness in the abdominal region
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Joint aches and pains, fatigue
  • Increased frequency of bowel movements
  • Mucus or blood in the stool
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Depression
  • Swelling and redness of the colon
  • Ulcers in the colon (in the case of ulcerative colitis)
  • Bloating, gas, indigestion, reflux, heartburn, cramps, fecal urgency

Diagnosis

Colitis can be diagnosed in several ways, and someone who is undergoing diagnosis may experience any or all of these tests. Some of the most common tests to diagnose colitis include colon x-rays, blood tests, testing stool for pus and blood, stool cultures, and colonoscopy.

Treatment of Colitis

The type of treatment received for colitis may vary depending on the cause of the symptoms. In some cases, the typical treatment is antibiotics to eliminate bacterial infection, in conjunction with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and inflammation. For some people, treatment with steroids is more effective.

One important thing to note about colitis treatment is that this is a chronic disorder that is not cured by medication. Drugs can help manage the symptoms, but won’t cure the disease.

For some people who experience recurrent episodes of severe inflammation, or who have permanent inflammation that never goes away, surgery may be required. Surgery for colitis treatment involves removal of the colon and bowel. Following this a section of the small intestine is reshaped to create a pouch. Over time, the pouch will begun to function like the colon.

Dietary Modification

For some people diet modification can have significant beneficial effects, however medical opinions are divided on the subject of how important diet is in managing symptoms. Currently there is only anecdotal evidence to suggest that diet plays a role in symptom management.

Some people have found that removing one or more of the following foods from the diet has helped reduce or eliminate symptoms of colitis.

  • Alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks
  • Spicy foods and sauces, peppers, chilies
  • Dairy products
  • Dried legumes
  • Dried fruits
  • High-fiber foods
  • Meat
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Raw vegetables
  • Refined sugar
  • Products containing sulfur, sulfate, or sorbitol

Note that while some people have reported improvement in symptoms of colitis by modifying their diet, it is by no means certain that the same possibility exists for everyone with the disease. Dietary modification may help some people with colitis, but there are no guarantees.

References

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Ulcerative Colitis

Singh, Jagvir, MD. Colitis at eMedicine

Wedro, Benjamin, MD. Colitis at eMedicineHealth