Microscopic Colitis (Lymphocytic Colitis and Collagenous Colitis)

  • Medical Author: Bhupinder Anand, MD
  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

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How common is microscopic colitis and who is at risk?

The prevalence of microscopic colitis in the U.S. is not clearly known.

Microscopic colitis most commonly occurs in the middle aged and elderly patients and is more common among women than men.

When should I seek medical care for microscopic colitis?

A person should seek medical care if the diarrhea lasts for more than 2 weeks or is accompanied with symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

How is microscopic colitis diagnosed?

The diagnosis of microscopic colitis is made by performing biopsies from different regions of the colon during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.

The abnormalities of the colon's lining in microscopic colitis occur in a patchy distribution (areas of normal lining may coexist adjacent to areas of abnormal lining). For this reason, multiple biopsies should be taken from several different regions of the colon in order to accurately make a diagnosis.

The patchy nature of microscopic colitis also is the reason why flexible sigmoidoscopy often is inadequate in diagnosing the condition because the abnormalities of microscopic colitis may be absent from the sigmoid colon (the colonic segment that is closest to the rectum and is within the reach of a sigmoidoscope) in some of the patients with microscopic colitis.

Thus, biopsies of other regions of the colon accessible only with colonoscopy may be necessary for diagnosing microscopic colitis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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