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Colitis

When you have colitis, you experience bouts of diarrhea that seem endless. Washington University Physicians at Barnes-Jewish Hospital deliver exceptional care that helps people experience more symptom-free days.

We treat all forms of the disease, including ulcerative colitis and microscopic colitis. Our experts tailor therapies and support to control symptoms and improve your quality of life.

What Is Colitis?

Colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This group of conditions occurs when an abnormal immune system response triggers inflammation in your intestines. With colitis, the inflammation affects your colon.

You may experience periods of:

  • Remission, where you don’t experience any colitis symptoms
  • Colitis flares, during which you experience abdominal cramping, diarrhea and other symptoms

Colitis Care: Why Choose Us?

You receive care from nationally recognized doctors with fellowship training in IBD. We work alongside other doctors, including abdominal radiologists and colorectal surgeons, to deliver precise therapies that meet your needs. Our approach enables us to successfully treat ulcerative colitis, microscopic colitis and rare forms of the disease that do not respond to standard treatments. Find an IBD specialist.

We provide:

  • Accurate diagnosis: We perform a biopsy, removing a tissue sample. Digestive health pathologists evaluate the samples to confirm a diagnosis so we can deliver the treatments that are best for you.
  • Latest treatments: We tailor a combination of medications to help you get relief from colitis symptoms. You may also be among the first patients in the St. Louis region receiving new options through clinical trials. Learn more about IBD treatments and testing.
  • Easy access: We respond to your changing needs and symptoms. We often see people within a few days. For urgent requests, our team is available by phone. Delivering timely care helps you feel better faster and avoid unnecessary hospital visits.

Types of Colitis We Treat

We treat all types of colitis, including:

  • Infectious colitis, when a virus or bacteria causes inflammation in your colon
  • Microscopic colitis, which requires a biopsy to confirm a diagnosis and includes:
    • Collagenous colitis, when an abnormal layer of protein covers the lining of the colon
    • Lymphocytic colitis, when there are abnormally high levels of white blood cells (lymphocytes) in your colon
  • Ulcerative colitis, inflammation in your colon causes sores (ulcers) in the lining of the colon

Colitis Symptoms and Complications

Colitis symptoms include: 

  • Chronic diarrhea, which is diarrhea that lasts for weeks at a time
  • Blood in your stool
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss

Complications from ongoing inflammation and other colitis symptoms may include:

  • Anemia, which happens when chronic diarrhea affects the makeup of your blood cells
  • Bleeding from tears in the lining of your intestines
  • Fulminant colitis, when inflammation damages the walls of your intestines
  • Malnutrition, which develops when you’re not getting enough nutrients
  • Toxic megacolon, a potentially life-threatening complication that causes severe swelling in the colon and requires immediate surgery

Diagnosing Colitis

We conduct a thorough evaluation to pinpoint the source of the inflammation. Our experts ask you about your medical history and perform a physical exam. 

You also undergo tests to help us learn more about what’s making you feel sick:

  • Blood tests: We analyze a blood sample for signs of inflammation or complications, such as malnutrition.
  • Colonoscopy: This procedure uses a long tube with a light and camera at the tip to assess the lining of your large intestine or colon.
  • Biopsy: We take tissue samples from your intestines. Pathologists specializing in digestive disorders examine the samples under a microscope to confirm or rule out colitis.
  • Imaging: We may use one or more imaging tests to check for signs of damage in the lining of your intestines. You may need a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or endoscopic ultrasound.

Treatments That Relieve Colitis Symptoms

We develop a personalized care plan to control inflammation and help you avoid flare-ups. We tailor treatments based on your health history and symptoms.

Your care may include:

  • Medications: We recommend combinations of medications based on your symptoms and diagnosis. We may prescribe steroids and other long-term medications. We adjust the types and doses as necessary to help you feel better. You may be eligible to receive new medications through clinical trials.
  • Nutrition therapy: Our IBD nutritionist helps you develop an eating plan that can lower your risk of complications. You receive personalized recommendations that may include lean proteins, such as fish, that do not cause inflammation. When you experience a flare-up, we recommend foods that are easier on your stomach, such as bananas and potatoes.
  • Support: You may work with a psychologist specializing in digestive problems. For women who wish to become pregnant, we develop an effective IBD treatment plan that is safe for you and the baby.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University IBD specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.

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Find a doctor or make an appointment: 855.925.0631
General Information: 314.747.3000
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St. Louis, MO 63110
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