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    Colitis is swelling (inflammation) of the large intestine (colon).


    Colitis can have many different causes, including:

    • Infections, including those caused by a virus, parasite, and food poisoning due to bacteria
    • Inflammatory disorders (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease)
    • Lack of blood flow (ischemic colitis)
    • Past radiation to the large bowel

    See also:

    • CMV colitis
    • Cryptosporidium enterocolitis
    • Necrotizing enterocolitis
    • Pseudomembranous colitis


    Symptoms can include:

    • Abdominal pain and bloating that is constant or comes and goes
    • Bloody stools
    • Chills
    • Constant urge to have a bowel movement
    • Dehydration
    • Diarrhea
    • Fever

    Exams and Tests

    The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms, including:

    • How long you have had the symptoms
    • How severe your pain is
    • How often it occurs
    • How long it lasts
    • How often you have diarrhea
    • Whether you have been traveling

    The health care provider can diagnose colitis by inserting a flexible tube into the rectum (flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy) and evaluating specific areas of the colon. Biopsies taken during these tests may show changes related to inflammation.

    Other studies that can identify colitis include:

    • Abdominal CT scan
    • Abdominal MRI
    • Abdominal x-ray
    • Barium enema


    Treatment is directed at the cause of disease (infection, inflammation, lack of blood flow, or another cause).

    See the conditions listed above for specific recommendations.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    The prognosis varies with each disease. See particular conditions listed above.

    Possible Complications

    • Bleeding
    • 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 (distended) abdomen


    Prevention depends upon the cause of colitis. See the specific condition.


    • Ulcerative colitis


    • Large intestine


      • Ulcerative colitis


      • Large intestine


      A Closer Look

      Self Care

        Tests for Colitis

          Review Date: 10/16/2011

          Reviewed By: George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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          St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
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