Microscopic colitis is an inflammation in the large intestine which causes watery stools. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. The colon tissue is examined under the microscope and therefore the name microscopic colitis. The colon tissue is examined under the microscope as in other diagnostic tests it may appear like normal tissues. Microscopic colitis is a painful condition but not as severe as inflammatory bowel diseases.
Microcopic colitis consists of two types of diseases such as collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis. Collagenous colitis is a thick layer of protein called the collagen that is formed on the colon tissue. Lymphocytic colitis is a condition in which the white blood cells or the lymphocytes increase in the tissues of the large intestine. These two conditions are the different phases of the same condition. Both the types of colitis affect the tissues of the colon.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The signs and symptoms of microscopic colitis include:
- Weight loss
- Watery diarrhea
- Pain in the abdomen
- Abdominal cramps
- Fecal incontinence
People suffering from chronic watery diarrhea which lasts for more than a week should immediately consult a doctor for proper treatment. The symptoms may come and go. For most of the people the symptoms may disappear even before the treatment.
The cause of inflammation in the colon due to microscopic colitis is not clear, however a few causes of microscopic colitis are:
- Bacteria may be one of the main causes of inflammation in the colon as it may produce toxins that irritate the colon lining or the wall of the colon.
- Mediations may also cause irritation in the lining of the colon.
- Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease etc which are associated to microscopic colitis may also cause inflammation in the colon.
- Viruses also play a major role in causing swelling or inflammation in the colon.
The following risk factors of microscopic colitis are:
- People between the ages 50 and 70 years are at a risk of developing microscopic colitis. This condition is more common among women than men.
- People with microscopic colitis usually also suffer from autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease, thyroid disease etc.
- People with a family history of the disease may also be at a risk of developing this condition.
- Smokers may also be at a risk of developing microscopic colitis.
The following are the tests performed to diagnose microscopic colitis.
- Physical examination is the first thing the doctor performs. The doctor may also ask for the complete medical history of the patient.
- Blood test is performed to check the levels of white blood cells as an increase in the level of white blood cells may indicate the presence of infection.
- Ultrasound and CT scan are performed in a patient suffering from microscopic colitis to get a clear view of the images of the colon.
- Colonoscopy is a test performed which uses a camera and a lighted tube that allows the doctor to look directly inside the colon, and stomach. A colonoscopy test is performed for a better evaluation of the condition, to check for the presence of polyps, inflamed tissues, ulcers etc.
Microscopic colitis may go away on its own without any treatment. If the condition persists, the doctor may suggest these steps.
- Avoid having food and drinks that increase or worsen the symptoms such as fatty food, dairy products, caffeine etc.
- Have food which is rich in fiber or take fiber supplements.
- Take the medications prescribed by the doctor.
- The doctor may prescribe over the-counter medicines such as Imodium and Pepto-Bismol to treat the condition.
- The doctor may also prescribe a few drugs which may help in reducing inflammation. The drugs include Asacol, Colazal, Azulfidine or steroids which are useful in bringing down swelling in people suffering from microscopic colitis.
- If these medicines do not work and the condition remains the same, the patient may have to undergo a surgery to treat microscopic colitis.
The preventive measures for microscopic colitis are:
- Eat more fibrous food
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Exercise regularly
- Eat small meals rather than large meals