Microscopic colitis is a kind of chronic inflammatory disorder of the colon or large intestine. It is referred to as “microscopic” since it can only be viewed using a microscope. The term “colitis” refers to inflammation of the colon, specifically the inner lining. This condition typically results in frequent, watery diarrhea.
Microscopic colitis has various subtypes, including collagenous colitis, lymphocytic colitis, and incomplete microscopic colitis. Collagenous colitis is distinguished by the buildup of protein or collagen in the colon tissue, forming a thick coating. Lymphocytic colitis, on the other hand, is marked by an elevated presence of white blood cells, specifically lymphocytes, in the colon tissue.
Microscopic colitis is a chronic illness that can exhibit intermittent periods of exacerbation and remission. It may be triggered by certain factors and may resolve without intervention. Despite being a chronic condition, it can often be managed effectively with medication. Additionally, all subtypes of microscopic colitis share the same symptoms, diagnostic testing, and treatment options.
Microscopic colitis symptoms might come and go at any time. Persistent watery diarrhea remains the most prevalent symptom associated with this condition, despite rare reports of individuals with microscopic colitis who do not experience this symptom. Other symptoms may include:
- Fecal incontinence
- Stomachache, cramps, or bloating
- Unexplained loss of weight
To prevent complications and manage the condition effectively, it is advisable to seek medical advice if any signs or symptoms persist. Consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended in such cases.
Microscopic colitis has no definite cause. Several factors may be involved, such as:
- Medicines that can upset the intestinal lining.
- Bacteria and viruses that cause inflammation to the colon lining.
- Autoimmune disease wherein the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s healthy tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and psoriasis are a few examples of autoimmune diseases that may be linked with microscopic colitis.
- Bile acid can irritate the colon lining when not adequately absorbed.
The following factors affect one’s risk of acquiring microscopic colitis:
- Age: It is prevalent in older people between the ages of 50 and 70.
- Sex: Some research suggests a link between postmenopausal hormone therapy and microscopic colitis. Thus, people who were assigned female at birth are more susceptible to microscopic colitis.
- Autoimmune disease: People with certain autoimmune illnesses, including celiac disease, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, or psoriasis are at a higher risk.
- Genetics: Having a family medical history of irritable bowel syndrome is scientifically linked with microscopic colitis.
- Smoking: People aged 16 to 44 with smoking history are at higher risk of microscopic colitis.
- Use of certain drugs: Medications such as pain relievers, proton pump inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, flutamide, carbamazepine, among others may raise the risk of microscopic colitis.