Colitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large intestine (colon).
Causes of colitis include:
- Infections, including those caused by a virus, parasite, and food poisoning due to bacteria
- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
- Lack of blood flow (ischemic colitis)
- Past radiation to the large bowel
- Necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns
- Pseudomembranous colitis
Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal pain and bloating: It may be constant, or come and go
- Bloody stools
- Constant urge to have a bowel movement
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. You will also be asked questions about your symptoms such as:
- How long have you had the symptoms?
- How severe is your pain?
- How often do you have pain and how long does it last?
- How often so you have diarrhea?
- Have you have been traveling?
The health care provider can diagnose colitis by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum (flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) and looking at certain areas of the colon. You may have biopsies taken during this exam. Biopsies may show changes related to inflammation.
Other studies that can identify colitis include:
Your treatment will depend on the cause of the disease.
The outlook will vary depending on the cause of the problem.
- Hole in the colon
- Toxic megacolon
- Sore (ulceration)
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain that does not get better
- Blood in the stool or stools that look black
- Diarrhea or vomiting that does not go away
- Swollen abdomen
Horn AE, Ufbert JW. Appendicitis, diverticulitis, and colitis. Emerg Med Clin N Am. 2011;29:347-368.
Last reviewed 10/13/2013 by George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
- The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.
- A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions.
- Call 911 for all medical emergencies.
- Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites.