What Are the Different Types Of Colitis?

A human colon.
A Salmonella infection can cause colitis.
Prescription medication for colitis.
A diagram showing ulcerative colitis and other colon diseases.
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  • Written By: Jacquelyn Gilchrist
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2014
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There are several different types of colitis, however they all result in the inflammation of the lining of the colon. The colon receives waste materials from the small intestine and transports them to the anus. When it becomes inflamed, this may result in symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloody stool. There are different types of this condition, known as infectious, ischemic, and microscopic colitis.

Infectious colitis is most often caused by bacteria, however, it may also be caused by a virus. It is often a result of eating contaminated or improperly prepared food. Bacteria such as salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and campylobacter are common culprits. The illness can also be caused by the suppression of healthy, beneficial bacteria while a patient takes antibiotics. This deficiency can allow harmful bacteria to flourish.

Not all types of colitis are caused by bacteria. Ischemic is a term that refers to a lack of blood. Ischemic colitis means that the colon does not have sufficient blood to function properly. This causes inflammation.

A lack of sufficient blood to the colon may be a result of anemia or low blood pressure, as these conditions interfere with blood flow. It is also often caused by the narrowing of the arteries, which can be a result of high cholesterol, smoking, or the natural aging process. In some cases, ischemic colitis can result from an obstruction to blood circulation. This may occur when a patient has a twisted bowel.


Ulcerative colitis (UC) is another kind of colon inflammation. Just as there are different types of colitis, there are also different types of UC. Ulcerative proctitis means that the swelling occurs in the rectum. Such patients may experience the usual symptoms as well as urgent bowel movements.

Proctosigmoiditis is another kind of UC, in which both the rectum and the sigmoid colon are inflamed. The sigmoid colon is the last part of the colon. Sufferers may experience abdominal pain on the left side of the body, as well as urgent bowel movements.

Other types of colitis include left-sided colitis and pancolitis. Both of these conditions are kinds of UC. Pancolitis occurs when the entire colon is inflamed. Patients may experience weight loss. Left-sided colitis occurs when the rectum, sigmoid colon, and the section of the bowel called the descending colon are swollen.

Another type, microscopic colitis, requires a tissue biopsy to diagnose. There are two types of microscopic colitis — collagenous and lymphocytic. Collagenous refers to the accumulation of collagen proteins. Lymphocytic refers to a build-up of white blood cells. Both of these conditions result in the inflammation characteristic of this illness.


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