George Krucik, MD, MBA
Colitis is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It is a chronic condition that has no known cure. There are many ways to treat the symptoms and make the individual suffering more comfortable. Abdominal pain and diarrhea are the two main symptoms of this disease. Abdominal pain from colitis can take on different forms and occur in different locations depending upon the type of colitis. Each individual's IBD can vary depending upon the location of the inflammation.
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Abdominal Pain From Diarrhea
Nearly all forms of colitis include diarrhea. Abdominal pain associated with diarrhea is inevitable. This type of pain can be felt on the left side as well as across the stomach and below the belly button. The cramps from diarrhea can range from mild to severe. You may not be able to stand, walk or talk during a severe cramp. Once the diarrhea passes, these cramps should pass as well.
Abdominal Pain From Digestion
As food passes through the intestines and colon it can irritate the already inflamed tissue. Colitis that is mostly confined to the upper colon, intestines and the left side of the bowels may increase the frequency of pain associated with digestion. Individuals suffering from this location of colitis may have "noisy digestion," meaning sounds can be heard as food passes through their body. The process of digesting the food and the travel of the food from one point to the next, may trigger abdominal cramps that range from mild to severe.
There is no known cure for colitis at this time. People suffering from this IBD are likely to develop scar tissue within the digestive tract from repeated inflammation. As scar tissue develops, it may block waste from being passed without pain. You may have severe stomach pain as the waste passes these overgrown areas or even vomit. The digestive tract is working overly hard to pass the food and waste through and this may result in more pain.
The cause of colitis has not been identified. It is an increasingly common ailment and is one of the most frequently diagnosed IBD. Speculations include linking IBD with immunity responses and heredity. Diet and activity can also increase or decrease the frequency of the inflammation. Stress can create more inflammation and encourage colitis to reactivate if it has been dormant for some time.
Other Colitis Symptoms
In addition to pain in the abdomen and diarrhea, you may suffer from pain in the rectum, blood in the stools, and sudden urges to move the bowels. Frequent diarrhea can lead to irritation of the rectum. When the rectum becomes irritated it may be sore, cracked and bleed. Hemorrhoids can also develop as a result of continued inflammation, straining and irritation from frequent diarrhea. Over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatment may help soothe the rectum and surrounding area. For more painful exterior concerns, your health care provider can prescribe other topical and oral medication to soothe the area.