Microscopic colitis is a form of colitis that was not found until the early 1980’s. This form of the disease comes with diarrhea, but with no blood in the stools which is characteristic to ulcerative colitis. But, in people with microscopic colitis, it is found that they still have inflammation occurring in the intestine. In some cases of microscopic colitis, there is an excess of collagen present. This is referred to as collagenous colitis. Each of these forms of colitis has the same symptoms. Each can also be treated the same, the response does not differ if there is collagen or not.
Microscopic colitis usually occurs in middle aged people. It sometimes appears in young children or in older adults. Bleeding does not occur in people with microscopic colitis. Family history and stool samples can no show that anyone has microscopic colitis. The only real symptom is diarrhea that can last for years. Usually, a person cannot absorb the necessary dietary nutrients needed, which causes colitis.
Understanding what causes microscopic colitis is difficult, as most doctors aren’t really sure. There are several possibilities though. In some cases there is a genetic inclination to autoimmune certain disorders. In these cases microscopic colitis is labeled as an autoimmune disorder. This entails our immune system has gotten extremely confused attacks its own tissue the same as an infection. Most doctors believe that the immune system is just responding to bacteria in the colonic lumen. This might happen if there is too much of one kind of bacteria or too little of another.
Another possibility, is that the protein gluten (which is found in wheat), may make its way to the colon and cause the inflammation. This usually isn’t the case in most people who get microscopic colitis. Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen that are used to fight inflammation can be a cause of microscopic colitis.
There has been cases of microscopic colitis with people who have arthritis and thyroid disease. It has not been seen constantly enough though to be linked with any other disease. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis have been seen to form after microscopic colitis. Fortunately, there has not been any evidence that shows this illness can lead to cancer.
Pepto Bismol is the only drug that best helps control this disease, especially with diarrhea. Other steroids that are used include prednisone. These seem to only reduce the symptoms for a short period of time and do not help the inflammation. Diarrhea usually starts again when the use of prednisone stops.
In a number of patients, sensitivity of gluten is a common trait. This can be a major factor for those who have the gluten sensitive gene. Studies have shown that people who relapse after being treated with Pepto Bismal, and those who did not respond at all to the treatment, are all sensitive to dietary gluten.
Research is ongoing to find out what causes microscopic colitis and how to best treat it. Though it is extremely hard to diagnose, it is important to go to your doctor if you think you might have any form of colitis.