Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Bhupinder Anand, MD
In this Article
What are the causes (types) of colitis?
Colitis describes inflammation of the colon (col=colon + itis=inflammation). While many causes of colon inflammation may be self-limiting and can be treated with diet and observation, it is important to determine why inflammation has occurred, because of the potential for a more serious diagnosis.
Many bacteria reside in the colon; they live in harmony with the body and cause no symptoms. However, some infections can result if a virus, bacteria, or parasite invade the small and/or large intestine.
Common most common bacteria that cause colitis include:
These infections usually occur because the patient has eaten contaminated food. Symptoms can include diarrhea with or without blood, abdominal cramps and dehydration from water loss because of numerous watery, bowel movements. Other organs can also be affected by the infection or the toxins that the bacteria can produce.
Clostridium difficile, commonly referred to as C. Diff, is a bacterial cause of colitis that often occurs after a person has been prescribed an antibiotic or has been hospitalized. C. diff is found in the colon of healthy people and co-exists with other "normal" bacteria. But when antibiotics are prescribed, susceptible bacteria in the colon can be destroyed, allowing the clostridia to grow unchecked, causing colitis. Patchy membranes form along the colon mucosa and some health care professionals will refer to C. diff colitis as pseudomembranous colitis. The bacteria is also found on many surfaces in the hospital (for example, bedrails, toilets, and stethoscopes), and the infection may spread from person to person (it is contagious). Unfortunately, this infection is becoming more common outside the hospital environment and people can develop community acquired C diff colitis without exposure to antibiotics or a medical facility.
Worldwide, the most common parasite infection to cause colitis is Entamoeba histolytica. It is acquired by drinking infected water and can also be passed from person to person because of poor sanitation and hygiene.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2015
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