Colitis simply means that there is inflammation present in the colon, or large intestines, and it’s often caused by bacteria but can also be caused by a virus or parasite. Of course, you won’t be able to tell that the colon is inflamed without turning to a gastroenterologist. If you are experiencing symptoms of infectious colitis, then your GI doctor may recommend undergoing a colonoscopy to look at the health of the colon. Through a simple colonoscopy, we can often tell whether you are dealing with infectious colitis.
What are the symptoms of infectious colitis?
People dealing with infectious colitis may experience,
- Frequent diarrhea throughout the day (usually occurring 3 or more times)
- Body aches
- Bloody or mucus-filled bowel movement
- Mild fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach cramping
- Abdominal pain
What puts someone at risk for developing infectious colitis?
If you work in a daycare or nursing facility you may be more at risk for contracting infectious colitis. If you aren’t diligent about handwashing, particularly after using the bathroom, you could also be at risk. You can also become infected by simply consuming contaminated water or foods (common for travelers). Those with weakened immune systems are also more likely to develop infectious colitis.
How can I prevent infectious colitis?
Make sure that all utensils and cooking spaces are properly cleaned and disinfected. Cross-contamination can also occur when bacteria from raw meat and its juices come in contact with other foods (such as on cutting boards). Never eat raw meat and make sure to thoroughly cook meat. You should also wash your hands regularly and practice good hygiene.
How is infectious colitis treated?
To determine if you have infectious colitis, and to rule out other gastrointestinal problems, your gastroenterologist will most likely take a stool sample to look for the presence of bacteria or a parasite. A colonoscopy may also be necessary to look at the colon to detect inflammation or to spot other problems that might be going on. The medication that your gastroenterologist provides will depend on the cause of your infection. For example, a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics while a parasitic infection will need to be treated with an antiparasitic drug (which may include the use of an antibiotic or antifungal medication). Viral infections will often clear up on their own without treatment.
If you are experiencing severe or persistent diarrhea or other bowel changes, it’s important that you don’t ignore these symptoms. Turn to a gastroenterologist right away for a proper evaluation.