What is Lymphocytic Colitis?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2019
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Lymphocytic colitis is a condition that causes colon inflammation. When a person has this condition, a particular kind of white blood cell known as lymphocytes increase in the colon. This type of colitis is commonly paired with a condition known as collagenous colitis. Both conditions are very similar, except with collagenous colitis, there is a more collagen in the colon, while this is not seen with lymphocytic colitis. Due to their similarity in symptoms and treatment, these conditions are often assigned to one category.

The distinct cause of lymphocytic colitis remains unrevealed. Scientists know that the condition generally affects more women than men and individuals commonly get it later in life, typically after age 50. One probable cause of the condition is an autoimmune disorder, where the body attacks its healthy cells. Another likely cause of the inflammation may be bacteria and resulting toxins in the colon. Often, the condition is reported more in individuals with illnesses like thyroid disorders, celiac disease and diabetes mellitus.

Usually the most pronounced lymphocytic colitis symptom is watery diarrhea. This is commonly a long-lasting symptom. There may also be incontinence in relation to the diarrhea. Other symptoms can include nausea, abdominal cramps and often pain. Some individuals may easily become dehydrated and have bloating or a distention in the abdomen.


This kind of colitis is also referred to as microscopic colitis because it can only be distinctively identified upon microscopic examination. The form of inflammation caused by lyphocytic colitis may not be seen using standard types of tests used to examine the colon. Doctors typically begin their analysis by performing one or several of these tests. In most cases, a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy is performed. A flexible sigmoidoscopy is often used to examine the lower colon, while a colonoscopy can detail the entire colon.

In order to get the microscopic examination of the colon, a biopsy is ordinarily performed. Doctors will perform a biopsy to collect a tiny colon tissue sample. The sample will be analyzed closely with a microscope. An elevated presence of lymphocytes in the colon will generally confirm the presence of the condition.

Treatment for lymphocytic colitis can vary. For certain patients, anti-diarrheal medicines may be administered as treatment. The advantage of this treatment is to wade off the chronic watery diarrhea for awhile. If the doctor feels the inflammation is caused by an autoimmune condition, immunosuppressives may be used. Some patients may also be given steroids to help with the diarrhea attacks as well as the inflammation.

Often, there are things people can do for themselves to help a case of lymphocytic colitis. The self help may greatly come from making dietary changes. This may include avoiding foods that will cause a gastrointestinal upset. For some people, this can mean eliminating foods that contain dairy and are high in fat. In addition, eliminating foods known to cause gas, that are spicy and contain caffeine may help as well.


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