What does it mean if you have colitis?

Nikki Sommer, a nurse with Key West Surgical Group, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5 FM for Medical Matters this morning.

After a colonoscopy, you can be diagnosed with colitis.

Sommer said, “There’s different types of colitis and some are kind of like a short term issue and others are long term like an autoimmune disease.”

Colitis is a general term for inflammation to the colon’s inner lining, which can be seen in a colonoscopy. It is recommended that anyone over 45 should have a colonoscopy.

Some types of colitis are categorized by the cause.

Sommer explained, “You can have infections, even poor blood supply or a parasite can also can all cause inflammation in the colon. So let’s start with infection. You can have a virus or bacteria, it’s called an infection colitis. A lot of times you’re not feeling well with that. You can have symptoms like diarrhea, fever, lots of abdominal pain, in some cases, weight loss. Salmonella is one and that’s common. Campylobacter and E. coli are the other ones. Campylobacter, which is a tricky little bug, but a lot of people don’t know what that is. They could be from contaminated food, water and in some cases, poor hygiene.”

Campylobacter is typically foodborne.

Sommer said, “It’s infectious if you are immunosuppressed. Just if you have an infection like any infection, just be just be careful. Be clean, wash your hands.”

What is C Diff colitis?

Sommer said, “This occurs when you’re on different types of antibiotics for different types of infections. So it can be not necessarily a colon infection, you can have an infection somewhere else, like a lung infection or a lot of times people that have abscesses either internally or externally and they have to be on long term antibiotics, you actually can contract what’s called C diff colitis. It interferes with the balance of the healthy bacteria in the colon. Then creates a whole different problem in itself. So there is specific antibiotics that treat C diff, colitis. You normally wouldn’t get it unless you were on some type of long standing antibiotic for another problem.”

Inflammatory bowel disease is one you hear a lot and is a form of colitis.

Sommer said, “Inflammatory bowel disease, this gets more into almost like autoimmune disease. It’s like chronic inflammation of your GI system. Crohn’s disease is one. It can develop slowly over time, becomes worse the longer it goes without being diagnosed. That’s usually long standing abdominal cramps and pain, changes in appetite, diarrhea, and you feel tired all the time, having frequent bowel movements, fever and unexplained weight loss. Left untreated it can create larger problems down the road.”

Ulcerative colitis is another form.

Sommer said, “So this is when you have chronic inflammation of the colon and ulcers can form. People talk about ulcers in their upper GI tract or their stomach. You can even have them in your colon. This also can cause really bad abdominal pain, bloody stool, diarrhea, fever, unexplained weight loss and malnutrition. You can bleed from these, this type of colitis, again, it’s a chronic condition, you need to try and keep any type of flare up at bay. Just like Crohn’s disease, the treatment is with medications. It could be debilitating. So it’s really important if you’re having any of those symptoms, you get this ruled out so it doesn’t become a bigger problem down the road.”

Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis are more like an autoimmune type disease.

Sommer said, “That’s not to say that you couldn’t have some type of bacterial infection that exacerbates this or brings it to the surface, you could be having mild symptoms, and something could set it off.”

Ischemic colitis is yet another one.

Sommer explained, “That’s when for whatever reason, there’s a reduced blood flow to a portion of the colon. It can be caused by narrowed or even blockage of arteries usually in older people. They have cardiovascular diseases, they might have long standing irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, a clotting disorder. That can be when there’s just a lack of blood flow to the colon. Actually, that can mean part of the colon could die. If you have severe pain on the right side of the abdomen, you need to get it checked out.”

Allergic reactions can also cause colitis.

Sommer said, “They’re usually temporary, can be a food allergy or a protein, most common in babies that are allergic to cow’s milk. Some people are just irritable with certain foods. People that have an allergy to gluten can have a lot of symptoms, similar to a colitis. It’s usually just diet when you figure out what the culprit is, that can be reversed.”

Microscopic colitis is where infectious colitis comes in.

Sommer said, “I see this a lot because Dr. Smith does a lot of biopsies. So a lot of times I will see this on the pathology. Microscopic colitis is where there’s an increase in lymphocytes, which is white blood cells in the colon lining. So you can have lymphocytic colitis, which means there’s a high number of white blood cells in your colon and collaborationist colitis where there’s a layer of collagen under the lining of the colon that appears to be thicker than normal. Autoimmune diseases, certain medications, infections, we see a lot of infectious colitis. We do see Ulcerative or Crohn’s disease, but a lot of times it’s usually due to infection.”

Drug induced colitis can also occur.

Sommer said, “People that take a lot of non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs that’s like ibuprofen, Motrin, Alieve, naproxen, if you have people that have arthritis or they do a lot of heavy lifting, they have back issues, usually run and grab those anti inflammatory drugs and they actually can inflame your colon and cause a type of colitis.”

If you have any issues, don’t put off treatment.

Sommer said, “I know life gets in the way, but if you’re having any of these symptoms, don’t put them off. Seek medical attention ASAP.”