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
How is colitis diagnosed?
Once the history is taken, physical examination will be helpful in determining the potential causes of the symptoms.
A complete blood count (CBC) measures hemoglobin and hematocrit, looking for anemia. If the red blood cell count is elevated, it may be due to dehydration, where total body water is decreased and the blood becomes concentrated.
The CBC also measures the white blood cell count, which may be elevated as the body responds to infection. However, an elevated white blood cell count does not necessarily equal infection, since elevation may be due to the body's reaction to any stress or inflammation.
Electrolytes may be measured looking for changes in the sodium, potassium, chloride and bicarbonate levels in the blood that help determine the severity of dehydration and loss of fluid.
Kidney function may be checked by measuring the BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels; this may be an important clue as well to the severity of dehydration.
Urinalysis may reveal dehydration if the specific gravity (urine concentration) is elevated or if there are ketones present.
Stool samples may be collected for culture, searching for bacterial and parasitic infections as the cause of colitis. Stool may also be tested for blood.
Imaging and procedures
Colonoscopy: The length of the colon can be directly viewed by colonoscopy. A gastroenterologist uses a thin, flexible tube equipped with a fiberoptic camera to view the inside lining of the colon. The appearance of the colonic lining often allows the doctor to make the diagnosis and also provides the opportunity to look for tumors and polyps. Biopsies - small bits of tissue - can be obtained from the mucosal lining during colonoscopy and evaluated under the microscope to determine the cause of colitis. Biopsy is the only way to diagnose microscopic colitis.
Computerized tomography and barium enema are tests that are performed by a radiologist to explore the potential cause of colitis. CT scan of the abdomen has become a more common test to evaluate patients with abdominal pain. However, it is important for the health care professional to balance the risk of radiation with the reward of the information that can be obtained.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2015
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