Colitis is an inflammation of the lining of the colon. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include abdominal cramping, frequent loose stools or persistent diarrhea, loss of control of bowel function, fever, and weight loss. There are many potential causes of colon inflammation, and its treatment typically depends on the cause.
Some forms of colitis might be caused by infection through bacteria, certain viruses and some parasites. For example, it might be caused by exposure to salmonella bacteria or an amoebic infection. Antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication typically are required to treat colon inflammation that has any of these causes.
Viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus also can cause colon inflammation and can result in dehydration, particularly in people who are very young or very old. Rest and increased fluid intake are often prescribed in these cases. If a person becomes severely dehydrated, however, he or she might need care in a hospital to receive intravenous fluids.
Certain diseases can predispose patients to attacks of colitis. The most frequent cause of colon inflammation in people who have intestinal diseases is Crohn’s disease, which is a degenerative intestinal disorder. A person who has Crohn’s disease is more prone to colon inflammation and to other serious conditions such as perforated bowel. He or she should see a healthcare professional immediately whenever any symptoms of colon inflammation are present, because any of these symptoms can necessitate medical treatment.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also can cause bouts of colitis. IBS is difficult to diagnose and to treat, so anyone who has had frequent recurrences of colitis symptoms should contact a healthcare professional. This is especially true if bacteria or parasites causes the symptoms, because the IBS can worsen and might need immediate treatment.
Although antibiotics are used to treat bacterial colitis, they also can be indicated as a cause of colon inflammation in some cases. Additional causes might include taking birth control medication or having autoimmune disorders. Smoking also can cause inflammation of the colon or contribute to the worsening of the symptoms.
People can reduce their risk of getting an inflamed colon by using sanitary cooking and eating practices, avoiding caffeinated beverages and not taking medications such as ibuprofen to treat irritable bowel or inflammatory bowel conditions. The treatment for people who have frequent bouts of colitis will focus on trying to reduce symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach cramping. Sometimes, treatment of the symptoms is the only way to address colon inflammation. Even with treatment, however, people who have Crohn’s disease, other autoimmune diseases or known stomach disorders should be vigilant if they suspect colitis, because other more serious conditions might have the same symptoms.