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What Is Microscopic Colitis?

Prescription medication for colitis.
Stomach cramps are a common symptom of microscopic colitis.
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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2014
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Microscopic colitis is a medical condition that afflicts the bowels and colon. The disorder occurs when excessive amounts of collagen and white blood cells build up on the lining of the large intestine, causing inflammation and abdominal pain. The most common symptom of microscopic colitis is chronic diarrhea, which introduces additional symptoms such as dehydration, stomach cramps, bloating, and nausea. Microscopic colitis is not normally a serious condition, and it can usually be treated with home remedies, over-the-counter anti-diarrheal formulas, or medications prescribed by a licensed physician.

While the exact cause of microscopic colitis is unknown, medical researchers have found evidence to suggest that genetic factors, bacteria, viruses, and immune system malfunctions may contribute to the disorder. Colon problems are generally more prevalent in older adults, though individuals of any age can be afflicted with microscopic colitis. Doctors have determined that older women, people with thyroid disorders, and those who suffer from various immune system diseases are at an increased risk of developing the condition.

A person with microscopic colitis usually experiences frequent episodes of watery diarrhea, which usually last for about a month without treatment. Chronic diarrhea can cause dehydration and nausea as vital fluids are expelled from the body. People often have symptoms of fatigue and may lose weight as dehydration worsens. Irritated, inflamed bowel tissue can also cause significant abdominal pain, bloating, and cramping in some individuals.

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An individual who suffers from microscopic colitis symptoms should consult a doctor before beginning any treatment so that a proper diagnosis can be made. Many people are able to overcome their symptoms by making changes to their diet and taking over-the-counter medication. People can usually find relief from chronic diarrhea by reducing or eliminating the consumption of fatty foods, dairy products, and caffeinated drinks. Individuals can drink plenty of water and juices to help relieve dehydration symptoms. Anti-diarrheal tablets, pills, and liquids, which are available at most pharmacies and supermarkets, encourage the production of healthy, solid stools and reduce the frequency of diarrhea episodes.

In most cases, people are able to overcome their symptoms and regain proper colon functioning in as little as two or three weeks. If symptoms do not subside after about a month and over-the-counter medications do not appear to be helping, a doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal oral medicines. People who do not find relief with prescription medications may be required to undergo invasive colon surgery to rid their bodies of excessive collagen buildup.

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