Microscopic Colitis

What is Microscopic Colitis?

When individuals have Microscopic Colitis, they have an inflamed colon. Collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis are the two forms of this disorder.

With lymphocytic colitis, an individual has a higher amount of lymphocytes than normal. When a person has collagenous colitis, the collagen has expanded and become thicker. The symptoms and treatments for both of these conditions are identical.

The exact reasons why individuals get this disorder are not known, but there are various theories, which include an atypical response from the immune system when exposed to bacteria, infections, certain medications, genetics and autoimmune disorders.

What are the Symptoms of Microscopic Colitis?

The most noted symptom of microscopic colitis is frequent occurrences of diarrhea that has a watery consistency. Individuals often have episodes of diarrhea that last for months or years. When the diarrhea ceases, it may be a long time before it starts up again.

Along with loose stools, many people also experience cramping, bloating and pain in their abdomen. Dehydration is another symptom of this disorder when individuals do not drink enough fluids to make up for the water loss due to the diarrhea. The urge to have a bowel movement often appears suddenly and some individuals may unknowingly pass stool during the night while they sleep.

Microscopic Colitis Causes

There is no exact cause of microscopic colitis, but it arises due to several factors, including abnormal immune-system response to bacteria that normally live in the colon, certain medications, autoimmune diseases, infections, bile acid malabsorption, and genetic factors.

Medications

Researchers have linked certain medications to cause microscopic colitis including sertraline, acarbose, lansoprazole, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen, aspirin, ibuprofen; ticlopidine, and lansoprazole, just to mention a few.

Autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases are disorders in which the body’s disease-resistant system causes spasms in the body’s own cells and tissues. Autoimmune diseases known to cause Microscopic Colitis include celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid diseases, and psoriasis disease.

Genetic factors

According to some scientists, genetics contribute to the cause of microscopic colitis. They have linked dozens of genes to diseases associated with the condition, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Infections

The condition may arise from infection from certain harmful bacteria, which produce toxins that irritate the lining of the colon. Viral infections cause the inflammation in the GI tract which contribute to the rise in microscopic colitis.

Bile acid malabsorption

The intestines’ incapability to fully reabsorb bile acids can cause the acid to reach the colon, which would cause irritation.

How is Microscopic Colitis Treated?

Some individuals can treat their microscopic colitis by changing their eating habits. This includes avoiding the consumption of caffeine, dairy products and foods that are extremely fatty.

Adding fiber to the diet with fiber-rich foods or supplements can also help to control loose stools. Taking drugstore medications that help to control diarrhea is also an option. If these at-home treatments are not effective, physicians may prescribe corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, immunomodulators or cholestyramine resin. In rare cases, when medications do not help the condition and the symptoms become excessive, surgery may be performed to take out the colon.

Microscopic Colitis Prevention

Avoiding certain medications such as those mentioned above and making dietary changes can help to prevent the condition. Health care providers recommend the following dietary changes:

  • Eating a gluten-free diet
  • Taking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration during episodes of diarrhea. Staying hydrated is another part of your dietary needs.
  • Avoiding foods and drinks containing caffeine or artificial sugars
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, eating a milk-free diet is recommended

Talking to a health care provider would help in determining what type of diet is right for you. Eating smaller meals throughout the day may help to prevent microscopic colitis.

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Last Reviewed:
September 21, 2016
Last Updated:
March 08, 2018