Colitis (Types)

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)
    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Bhupinder S. Anand, MBBS, MD, DPHIL (OXON)

    Dr. Anand received MBBS degree from Medical College Amritsar, University of Punjab. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Postgraduate Institute of medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. He was trained in the field of Gastroenterology and obtained the DPhil degree. Dr. Anand is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.

Quick GuideWhat's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

What's Causing Your Abdominal Pain?

Infectious causes of colitis

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 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 coexists 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 over the colon mucosa and some health-care professionals refer to C. diff colitis as pseudomembranous colitis. The bacteria also may be found on many surfaces in the hospital (for example, bedrails, toilets, and stethoscopes), and the infection may spread from person to person (it is highly 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. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 2/26/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. "Living with Crohn’s & Colitis."
<http://www.ccfa.org/living-with-crohns-colitis/>

Kasper, D., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2015.

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