Microscopic Colitis

Microscopic colitis is a type of inflammation that occurs in the colon.  It can cause diarrhea or cramping.  It is much less severe than other types of inflammatory bowel disease.  Microscopic colitis is much too small to be seen with the naked eye.  In order to diagnose microscopic colitis a physician must perform a colonoscopy and take a sample of the tissue in your colon and look for inflammation under a microscope.  There are two types of microscopic colitis: collagenous and lymphocytic colitis.  The differences between collagenous and lymphocytic colitis are minor.  The tissues of collagenous and lymphocytic colitis look different under a microscope.  Collagenous and lymphocytic colitis are treated the same way.  Microscopic colitis is not at all related to the more serious types of bowel disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Many people who have microscopic colitis may experience symptoms that include: watery (but not bloody) diarrhea that can last weeks to months; cramps; pain; bloating; dehydration.  These symptoms may wax and wane.  It is unknown what causes microscopic colitis.  Possible causes may be bacteria, toxins, or viruses.  It has been suggested that it could also be related to a problem in the immune system.  Some medications such as aspirin, heartburn drugs, and certain antidepressants may increase your risk of developing microscopic colitis.

Treatment for microscopic colitis is not always needed.  In some cases it may resolve on its own.  If it persists, you physician may suggest that you avoid foods or drinks that could make the symptoms worse such as caffeine, dairy, and fatty foods.  Your physician may also recommend that you take fiber supplements and stop taking any medications that may be triggering your symptoms.  If you continue to have symptoms, it may be suggested that you take an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal, such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol.  Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to reduce swelling such as mesalamine, sulfasalazine, or steroids.

1. “Microscopic Colitis.”  Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center.  WebMD.  June 24, 2013.  Web 8 July, 2013.