Health Encyclopedia

Colitis

Definition

Colitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large intestine (colon).

Causes

Causes of colitis include:

Symptoms

Symptoms can include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You will also be asked questions about your symptoms such as:

  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • How severe is your pain?
  • How often do you have pain and how long does it last?
  • How often so you have diarrhea?
  • Have you have been traveling?

The health care provider can diagnose colitis by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum (flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) and looking at certain areas of the colon. You may have biopsies taken during this exam. Biopsies may show changes related to inflammation.

Other studies that can identify colitis include:

Treatment

Your treatment will depend on the cause of the disease.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The outlook will vary depending on the cause of the problem.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal pain that does not get better
  • Blood in the stool or stools that look black
  • Diarrhea or vomiting that does not go away
  • Swollen abdomen

References

Horn AE, Ufbert JW. Appendicitis, diverticulitis, and colitis. Emerg Med Clin N Am. 2011;29:347-368.


Review Date: 10/13/2013
Reviewed By: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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