The term, "colitis', refers to any condition which may have many causes, but, the result is an inflamed colon.
Of course, while colitis can refer to the inflammation condition of the colon itself, there are different conditions.
For example, there is Ischemic colitis, Crohn's Disease, even chemically induced colitis (usually from medication), and many more. Generally, however, "colitis" is used as a shorthand phrase for ulcerative colitis, one of the more common types of inflammatory bowel disease.
There are both similarities and differences between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Crohn's disease, with which it may be confused. As to differences between the two, Crohn's commonly exists in isolated spots within the intestine, while ulcerative colitis tends to occur in continuous sections. Ulcerative colitis, or UC, affects the innermost lining of the large intestine, while Crohn's Diseasebegins at another layer.
This points up the importance of having your condition diagnosed by medical professionals. The symptoms may be similar, but, the treatment will depend on the actual health problem of the colon.
SYMPTOMS OF COLITIS
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis are common to many problems of the colon. They include rectal inflammation and sometimes bleeding in the last six inches of the large intestine. By contrast, another condition of the colon, pancolitis, affects the entire length of the colon and produces bloody diarrhea with abdominal cramps. Ulcerative colitis may also include excessive and unusual weight loss, fatigue, and night sweats.
PATHWAY TO OTHER COLON CONDITIONS
Colitis, particularly ulcerative colitis, has the potential of being a serious condition which can lead to even more serious complications.
In toxic megacolon, for example, the colon becomes paralyzed, which prevents the elimination of gas, or even of having bowel movements. When waste material isn't removed, it can cause the colon to rupture, which allows toxins into the bloodstream, potentially causing peritonitis in some instances.
Of course, as with appendicitis, this would require emergency surgery. That's "worst case scenario", but, even less severe, though still serious secondary effects are not uncommon. A perforated colon, severe dehydration, liver disease, or inflammation of the skin or joints are only a few of the possibile risks.
IBD AND COLON CANCER?
While it doesn't cause colon cancer directly, IBD does increase the risk a bit, with the risk growing the longer the condition persists. The good news is that only about 10 percent of IBD sufferers go on to contract colon cancer.
Much like Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease produces ulcers in the colon, which account for many of the symptoms listed. Also, the cause(s) of the IBD are not well understood. Some studies suggest that a bacterium or virus is the culprit and that the disease occurs when the immune system overreacts to fighting it.
Like Crohn's, heredity plays a large role in who is likely to acquire the Ulcerative Colitis.
Gernetics play a part, and the risk is much higher for those with a close relative affected by the condition. Also like Crohn's, unlike many other diseases, it tends to occur among younger individuals, those in their 30s, rather than the elederly.
DIAGNOSIS OF COLITIS
Fortunately, there are many diagnostic procedures for determining whether an IBD is present.
Blood tests check not only for anemia, but also signs of infection. The colonoscopy, a procedure using a lighted tube with a camera inserted into the colon through the rectum, allows a direct inspection of the inner surfaces of the colon. It also may be used to take tissue samples which can be analyzed later.
Those samples can be checked for granulomas, which occur in Crohn's but not ulcerative colitis.
X-ray diagnosis of colitis is also used, with a barium compound that makes diseased areas visible.
TREATMENTS FOR COLITIS
Treatments for ulcerative colitis can range from drug therapy, to surgery, to removal of the ulcerated tissue - sometimes merely in spots, but, at other times in entire sections. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as Sulfasalazine or Mesalamine are also effective for treatment of symptoms, though they often have very undesirable side effects. Corticosteroids may also be prescribed for short periods.