By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is Colitis?

The colon, or large intestine, is a hollow, muscular tube that processes waste products of digestion from the small intestine, removes water, and ultimately eliminates the remnants as feces (stool) through the anus. The colon is located within the peritoneum, the sac that contains the intestine, located in the abdominal cavity. Colitis is swelling (inflammation) of the colon.

How common is Colitis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Colitis?

The common symptoms of Colitis are:

  • Abdominal pain and bloating that may be constant or come and go
  • Bloody stools
  • Constant urge to have a bowel movement (tenesmus)
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Colitis?

Most of the time, the cause of colitis is unknown.

Possible causes of colitis include:

  • Infections caused by a virus or a parasite
  • Food poisoning due to bacteria
  • Crohn disease
  • Lack of blood flow (ischemic colitis)
  • Past radiation to the large bowel (radiation stricture)
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns
  • Pseudomembranous colitis caused by Clostridia difficile infection

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Colitis diagnosed?

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 do you have diarrhea?
  • Have you been traveling?
  • Have you been taking antibiotics recently?

The 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. This can help determine the cause of colitis.

Other studies that can identify colitis include:

  • CT scan of the abdomen
  • MRI of the abdomen
  • Barium enema
  • Stool culture
  • Stool examination for ova and parasites

How is Colitis treated?

The treatment of colitis depends upon the cause.

For undiagnosed or uncontrolled colitis, the initial therapy (regardless of the cause) is to stabilize the patient’s vital signs and help control pain if needed. Rehydration may be accomplished by mouth. However, for those patients who are markedly dry, who are unable to tolerate fluids by mouth, or have electrolyte abnormalities, intravenous fluids may be required.

Medications are often used to control inflammatory bowel disease and the choice of medication is tailored to the individual patient.

Antibiotics are not commonly used unless a specific bacteria is isolated and treatment is known to shorten the course of the infection.

Over-the-counter medications to treat diarrhea should be used with caution, especially if abdominal pain and fever are present. It is always wise to check with a care provider or pharmacist prior to taking antidiarrheal medications.

Surgery is usually not a treatment option for most causes of colitis.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Colitis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Colitis:

  • Initially avoiding solid foods and promoting a clear fluid diet may be of help in rehydrating the body and resting the colon.
  • Changing your diet to reduce symptoms or flares may help soothe the symptoms of the disease, but there is no cure for some forms of colitis.
  • Keeping a food diary may be helpful and then avoid foods that may be associated with worsening symptoms.
    • Avoiding the following foods if you have colitis:
    • Greasy or fried foods
    • Milk or products containing milk
    • Certain high-fiber foods like popcorn, seeds, nuts, and corn
  • People who are lactose intolerant should avoid dairy products containing lactose.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 11, 2018 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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