Colitis

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Colitis facts

  • Colitis is inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. It may cause abdominal pain and diarrhea with or without blood. Fever may be present.
  • There are numerous causes of colitis including infection, inflammatory bowel disease, ischemic, and microscopic colitis.
  • Blood in the stool is never normal and should not be ignored.
  • Depending upon the history and physical examination, further testing may be required to find the cause of colitis.
  • Treatment of colitis often is supportive and is aimed at maintaining adequate hydration and pain control while a diagnosis is being pursued.

What is colitis?

Colitis is inflammation of the inner lining of the colon and can be associated with diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and blood in the stool. This inflammation may be due to a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • infection,
  • loss of blood supply to the colon,
  • inflammatory bowel disease, and
  • invasion of the colon wall with lymphocytic white blood cells or collagen.

Anatomy of the colon

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 abdominal cavity, the sac that contains the intestine.

The colon is surrounded by many layers of tissue. The innermost layer of the colon is the mucosa that comes into contact with the waste products of digestion. is The mucosa absorbs water and electrolytes back into the blood vessels that are located just below the surface in the submucosa. This is surrounded by a circular layer of muscles and then another outer layer of longitudinal muscles that run along the length of the colon. The muscles work together to help rhythmically squeeze liquid waste from the cecum through the entire length of the colon. Water is gradually removed, turning the waste into formed stool, so that it is excreted out of the anus in solid form.

The colon frames the organs within the peritoneum and its segments are named based on their location.

  • The colon begins in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen, where the terminal ileum, the last part of the small intestine, attaches to the cecum, the first segment of the colon. The appendix is attached to the cecum.
  • The ascending colon begins at the cecum and arises from the right lower abdomen to the right upper abdomen near the liver.
  • The colon then makes a sharp left turn called the hepatic flexure (hepatic=liver), and is referred to as the transverse colon, as it makes its way to the left upper quadrant of the abdomen near the spleen.
  • There is a sharp downward turn called the splenic flexure, and it is referred to as the descending colon as it runs from the left upper quadrant to the left lower quadrant of the abdomen.
  • When it descends into the pelvis, it is referred to as the sigmoid colon.
  • The last several centimeters of the colon are referred to as the rectum.
  • The anus is the final portion of the colon.

Picture of the Large Intestine or Colon
Picture of the Large Intestine or Colon

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/5/2013

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Colitis - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe your experience with colitis.
Colitis - Treatments Question: What was the treatment for your case of colitis?
Colitis - Symptoms Question: What were your symptoms of colitis?
Colitis - Diagnosis Question: How was your case of colitis diagnosed?
Colitis - Type Question: What type of colitis do you have?

Colitis Symptoms

Viewer Question: I was tested and told I have microscopic colitis, it seems that i have constant dull pain at bottom rib cage, also my joints all over my body are always stiff sore, could the stiff sore joints, shoulders, hips etc, have anything to do with the microscopic colitis?

Doctor's Response: The primary symptom of microscopic colitis is chronic, watery diarrhea. Patients with microscopic colitis can have diarrhea for months or years before the diagnosis is made. The chronic diarrhea of microscopic colitis is different from the acute diarrhea of infectious colitis which typically lasts only days to one week.