Colitis is defined as an inflammatory bowel disorder and is characterised by inflammation in the inner lining of the colon (large intestine) and rectum. The inflammation generally begins in the rectum and the lower part of the large intestine and gradually spreads upward to the entire colon. Colitis hardly affects the small intestine except for the lower part, which is known as the ileum.
For a person suffering from colitis, with time as the cells on the surface of the lining of the large intestine die and slough off, ulcers develop resulting in pus, mucous and bleeding. The inflammation of the inner lining of the colon may cause diarrhoea and/or frequent urge for emptying of the colon.
Broadly, colitis is classified into four major types. These include:
This is the most common type of colitis. Along with Crohn's disease, Ulcerative colitis (UC) is classified as inflammatory bowel disease. UC usually occurs when the immune system of the body becomes overactive against certain microbes like bacteria present in the digestive tract. It starts in the rectum and eventually spreads to the colon. The condition causes inflammation and painful ulcers within the large intestine's inner tissue lining.
Ischemic colitis (IC) is a type of colitis that occurs when the colon experiences restricted flow of blood. The flow of blood can be obstructed by blood clots that can result in sudden blockage. Atherosclerosis, a condition that involves the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, is one of the major culprits that restrict the flow of blood to the colon.
This condition is diagnosed by a physician after carefully examining a tissue sample of the colon under a microscope. Lymphocytic colitis and collagenous colitis are the two types of microscopic colitis. Lymphocytic colitis is diagnosed if there are too many lymphocytes in the tissue sample. Collagenous colitis is diagnosed when the lining of the colon becomes thick owing to the accumulation of collagen beneath the outermost layer of tissue.
As the name suggests, the condition affects infants. It generally happens within 1 to 2 months after birth. Symptoms of this condition include excessive spitting up, reflux, fussiness, and possible flecks of blood in a baby’s stool. The cause of this condition is not known.
The symptoms of a person having colitis may vary depending upon how severe the inflammations are and where the inflammation occurs. Some of the common symptoms of such a disorder include:
A few patients may also experience some indirect symptoms such as:
A patient having such symptoms should immediately consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The diagnosis of patients suffering from colitis involves obtaining the medical history of the patient, physical examinations and a few laboratory tests. A few popular ways of diagnosis are laboratory examination of stool sample, abdominal computed tomography, abdominal X-rays and colonoscopy.
Once the severity of the condition and the area of inflammation within the colon is accurately diagnosed, the treatment begins and it includes both either by drug therapy or by surgery (if found necessary by the doctor).
The problem of colitis is usually treated either by drug therapy or by surgery. There are several categories of drugs that may prove effective in the treatment of colitis. The type of drug prescribed by the doctor mainly depends on the severity of the condition that a patient suffers from. Moreover, the response of patients to various drugs may also be different and hence it might take some time for the doctor to find out the appropriate medicine that would be effective for a particular patient.
In addition to this, it is important for physicians to weigh out the benefits as well as the side effects of various medicines before prescribing them to their patient.
However, in severe cases of colitis, where medical treatment has no effect, the doctors may recommend for surgical treatment. The surgical treatment involves the removal of the entire colon and rectum (proctocolectomy) of the patient.
This surgical method is followed by another process known as ileoanal anastomosis where the surgeon constructs a pouch from the end of the patient’s small intestine and attaches it to the anus. This pouch functions similar to the rectum and collects the stool of the patient and helps in excreting them out normally.
Any person irrespective of their age and having symptoms such as diarrhoea along with blood or pus, abdominal pain or cramping, loss of appetite, rectal pain, bleeding of rectum, anaemia due to excess bleeding, urgency to defecate, inability to defecate despite urgency, fever, weight loss, weakness due to inflammation of the inner lining of the large intestine or rectum is said to be suffering from colitis and is eligible for this treatment.
People who do not suffer from the symptoms of colitis are considered as not having this disease and are not eligible for such treatment. Moreover, if a patient suffers from serious side effects of a particular treatment of colitis, then the doctor may recommend switching to some other effective form of treatment of the disease.
The drugs prescribed by the doctor for the treatment of colitis mainly include anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, anti-diarrhoeal medications, pain relievers (except ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and diclofenac sodium as they tend to worsen the symptoms and increase the severity of the disease) and iron supplements.
The common anti-inflammatory drugs used in the treatment of colitis include amino-salicylates and corticosteroids. The immune system suppressors used for treatment are azathioprine, mercaptopurine, cyclosporine, infliximab, adalimumab, golimumab and vedolizumab.
Colitis and diarrhoea are often associated with each other. This is because just like diarrhoea, the body loses significant amounts of fluid with each flare-up of colitis. When the colon is inflamed, it is important to ensure that the organ gets proper rest. Reduce the consumption of solid foods and intake of fluid diet All these steps not only assist in rehydrating the body but also ensure that the colon get enough rest.
While making the aforementioned changes to your diet may provide soothing effects and reduce the likelihood of colitis flare-ups, it is important to note that this is no cure for colitis.
Depending on the cause of the condition, there are certain foods that are associated with worsening of colitis in some people. There are some foods that trigger colitis flare-ups or aggravate the symptoms. It is recommended that people with colitis should make a list of foods that have caused flare-ups in the past.
As per the recommendations of the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, people with colitis should consider avoiding the following foods:
Like most other treatments, medications used for treating colitis also have some side effects. It is important for a patient to know how to differentiate between the symptoms of colitis and the possible side effects that may arise from its medications. A doctor, who prescribes the medicines for a patient of colitis, must always weigh out the benefits as well as the possible adverse side effects of the medication.
Some of the common side effects of the treatment of colitis include headache, nausea, vomiting, fever, rash, loss of appetite, decreased white blood cells, decreased sperm production in males, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramps, gas, hair loss, dizziness, kidney problems, weakness, pericarditis, pancreatitis, high blood pressure, weight gain, mood swings, acne, osteoporosis, cataracts, high blood sugar levels, insomnia, lymphoma and others. In case a patient suffers from some serious side effects then he/she must immediately consult a doctor for remedial measures.
The treatment of colitis involves a number of medications and proper diet (mainly fluids and excluding any type of spicy food). Even after the patient recovers from this problem, he/she needs to follow some guidelines given by the doctor in order to stay healthy.
The post treatment guidelines to be followed by a patient include taking the medicines regularly on time, having a healthy diet, taking plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and practising regular exercises to facilitate proper bowel movements.
Even after recovery the patient needs to go for follow-up check-ups on a regular basis as instructed by their doctor. In case, a patient suffers from any side effects during the time of medication then he/she should consult a doctor for its remedy
The time taken for a patient of colitis to recover from this problem usually varies depending on the seriousness of the condition and the physiological response of the patient to the prescribed medications. Usually cases of mild colitis may take about 3 to 4 days to recover for children and about one week for adults. However, patients suffering from severe colitis may even take 3 to 4 weeks to recover from this condition.
The price of the treatment of colitis in India varies depending upon the seriousness of the condition of the patient and the medication that his/her doctor prescribes. Usually mild colitis can be treated with medicines that can cost as low as Rs. 1300 (for full treatment).
However, patients suffering from severe colitis may require costly medications and even surgical treatment (if necessary) and for such treatments, the price range can be between Rs. 57,400 to Rs. 7,87,500 in India. This treatment is available in almost all leading hospitals in India.
It should be remembered that colitis, being an auto-immune disease characteristically has a relapsing-remitting course and this means that there are periods of flare-ups which are then followed by a period of remission. Presently there are no medical treatments for the complete cure of colitis.
The medical treatments only tend to lessen the severity of the condition. However, conditions such as inflammation of the bowel, bloody diarrhoea and abdominal cramping can be stopped with surgical treatments.
A variety of treatment options exist for ulcerative colitis. These include medicine and dietary changes. It must be noted that these are not curative treatments. However, you can opt for surgery to get your colon and rectum removed.
There are natural remedies that are believed to cure colitis. Some of them are:
There are certain simple measures that you can take to stop or reduce the frequency and intensity of colitis flare-ups. These measures include:
Although medical and surgical treatments are considered as the best ways to control the conditions of colitis, there are a few alternative treatments as well. The alternative treatments for the conditions of colitis include taking of herbal and nutritional supplements, probiotics, fish oil (although excess consumption of fish oil can cause diarrhoea), Aloe Vera gel, acupuncture therapy and/or turmeric.
In addition to this, the patient should avoid consumption of spicy food, dairy products, alcohol, beverages and fibres in their diet. Eating of small light nutrition-rich meals at regular intervals throughout the day, plenty of water and multivitamin supplement helps to recover from this condition.